7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– As the wholesale price of mutton was fixed, on the 24th September, at 5½d. per lb., and of lamb at 6d. per lb., and as this meat has been selling at Newmarket at 4½d. and 5d. per lb., I ask the Minister for Price Fixing if he does not think that some action should be taken to protect both producers and consumers?
– I explained yesterday, in replying to a similar question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), that it was never the intention of the Government tofollow the market in the fixing of prices, our object being merely to fix maximum prices.
– I ask the Minister for High Prices if he has received any information from the New South Wales Government as to its taking over the control of meat, and is he likely to assist it to do so quickly?
Allotment Money - New Zealand Reciprocity
– Last week, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) promised to make a comprehensive statement regarding the present method of allotting money to the wives and. dependants of soldiers. I shall be glad to know if he can do so now.
– I have been supplied with the following information on the subject : -
Department of Defence, Melbourne, 23rd October, 1918
Reduction of Allotments to cover overdrafts.
A soldier is compelled to allot tohis wife at the following rates: -
For wife - Two-fifths of his total pay, less amount deferred.
For wife and one or two or more children - Three-fifths of total pay, less amount deferred.
For one child - One-fifth of total pay, less amount deferred.
The soldier may, and often does, allot in addition to these amounts some portion of the remainder of his pay.
Privates - 2s. per week.
N.C.O.’s - 3s. 6d. per week.
Warrant officers - 4s. per week.
Officers -£ 1 per week.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will put a notice of the question on the business-paper. I have given instructions for the records to be searched, but I have not yet been informed whether any arrangement on the subject exists.
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers
– It is stated in the press that the Military authorities are dispensing with the services at the Caulfield Military Hospital of a number of returned soldiers, whom they are replacing with women on the ground that women’s services are cheaper than men’s. I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence if the statement is true, and, if it is, how many returned soldiers are likely to be displaced? Is this action of the Government indicative of the gratitude it feels towards returned men?
– I am not aware of the facts, but I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know the result.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories been informed of a case in which a young person residing in Hindmarsh, and teaching at a school at Oakbank, in . the division of Angas, has been fined at Woodside because her name is not on the Angas roll? Is she not entitled to enrolment for the division in which she lives?
– The honorable member yesterday showed me a letter on the subject to which he nowrefers, and I have asked for a report as to the facts. The Electoral Act provides for the enrolment of an elector in the division in which he or she lives. In cases of non-enrolment, every facility is afforded for the making of explanations without going into Court. The lady concerned made an explanation, but the magistrate, I understand, thought that she was in error. However, as I have already told the honorable member, I shall endeavour to ascertain the facts, and to see that justice is done.
– I understand that it is the practice for intending shippers of cargo to book space at the various InterState shipping companies’ offices, but that complaint is made that priority is not secured by this arrangement, because a vessel on each visit to a port is dealt with by a different company, being passed round among the various offices. I ask the Acting Minister for the Navy if he will consider the advisability of establishing a central booking office in each big city, so that priority may he obtained by those who first make application for space ?
– I shall give the matter consideration.
Amount Subscribed - Organizers’ Speeches
– Is it true, as rumoured down town, that there was a serious inaccuracy in the Treasurer’s statement regarding the amount that had been subscribed on the date on which the Seventh War Loan was to close. Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the sum actually subscribed is greater or less than was stated?
– It is not true that the original statement was incorrect, but when the returns were being totalled in the various States an error of about £800,000 was made in the advice telegraphed from one of them. We were not able to’ ascertain immediately whether that error was in over-statement or in under-statement, but we have since learned that the amount subscribed was more than stated.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that the Government are paying the expenses of organizers for the Seventh War Loan? If so, will he inform the House as to the amount paid by way of salaries and expenses to such organizers?
– I cannot give detailed information without notice. The Government is paying all the organizing expenses, including advertising, of the War Loan Committees. There is on the notice-paper for to-day a question dealing with one phase of the matter, but if honorable members require fuller particulars, and I am able to obtain them, I shall be glad to supply them.
– Is the Treasurer aware that organizers for the Seventh War Loan have gone into large towns, and have made the most insulting an.d abusive statements when the response to their appeal has not been up to expectations? If so, will he take steps to have these organizers immediately withdrawn?
– I am not aware of anything of the kind, but if the honorable member can supply me with particulars I shall be glad to have them. The services, of these gentlemen will, in the ordinary course of events) terminate on Monday next, when subscriptions to the War Loan close, and an announcement will then be made as to the result.
Allowance tor Civilian Suit.
– Is it a fact that returned soldiers, when discharged, are allowed only 30s. for a civilian suit, and, if so, will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence consider the propriety of increasing the allowance to something approaching the cost of a suit ?
– The present allowance is as stated. , I shall ask the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to consider the suggestion contained in the question.
– Returned soldiers who are engaged in hand-weaving here are making splendid cloth, but they are being supplied from a Government Department with a shoddy yarn. This yarn has got into general use, and a lady who has made a tremendous number of socks for the men at the Front has complained about it. I produce one of the socks made from this yarn. Honorable members can see from the effect of six days’, wear, how poor the quality of the yarn must be. Will the Acting Prime Minister do something by regulation under the War Precautions Act, or in some other’ way, to prevent injury being done to our returned men who are weaving cloth - because cloth made of this yarn is useless - and to prevent the yarn in question from being supplied to the women and girls who are making socks for out soldiers.
– I am not acquainted with the facts mentioned, but my attention having been directed to the matter, I’ shall see that the proper authorities are informed of the honorable member’s complaint, with a view to action to prevent what is alleged to be taking place.
– It is not in -conformity with the dignity of the House that day “after day I should be compelled to impress on honorable members the duty of refraining from interjecting while questions aTe being asked, and interrupting in a disorderly way the business of the House. This practice is growing, and I must ask the House to take serious notice of it should it continue. Honorable members addressing the Chair should be heard in reasonable quiet. There should not be the continual fusillade of noisy interjections, to the disturbance of our .proceedings, which is daily becoming more noticeable.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister a question of a rather serious nature. It was stated in. the daily press last week that a claim had been made upon the Navy Department for £27,000 ; that the officials had reported in favour of paying £7,000, and that, despite their recommendation, the Minister for the time being had authorized the payment of £25,000. These facts were alleged in a most circumstantial way in a leading article in one of the Melbourne daily newspapers, but no notice appears to have been- taken of the statement.
– The honorable member has been asleep. I have been directing attention to it. for the past week.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he does not owe it to our party to have a full explanation of the matter - not a mere flippant answer - given to the House. A number of persons outside are commenting on the want of such an explanation.
-I think that the House is entitled to an explanation on an important matter of this kind, and in that spirit the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) was requested by the Government to put the matter clearly before the House. This he did last week in an extended memorandum.
– In view of the grave uncertainty in the minds of many intelligent persons, including members of this House, as to who may be the individuals referred to in numerous reports, as, for instance, that on the Navy Department, will the Acting Prime Minister take steps to have these reports referredback to the Commissions or Committees responsible for them, and to ask that the names of the officers or Ministers of the Crown therein referred to shall be specifically given?
– I am sure that honorable members are grateful to the honorable member for Grampians for including them amongst the intelligent section of the community. As to the main part of his question, there is on to-day’s notice-paper a question by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) which, while it does not cover quite so wide an area as that just put by my honorable friend, includes an explicit reference to the recent report of the Royal Commission. If my answer to that question on notice does not go far enough, I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Acting Minister for the Navy lay on the” table of the Library all papers concerning the claims in final settlement of the contract reviewed in the concluding paragraph of the report of the Royal Commission on Navy administration?
– I shall have no objection to laying on the table of the Library the whole of the papers, including the amended contract which was effected by the Minister then in charge, and which made a very considerable savingon the first contract. The papers will disclose the whole transaction.
German Chancellor’s Speech
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House whether there is. any political significance attaching to the fact that a lengthy and excellent report of the German Chancellor’s speech on the peace negotiations appeared in last night’s Herald, while in this morning’s newspapers there was but a very abbreviated and scanty reference to it. Was the cablegram censored after it appeared in the Herald?
– My honorable friend can generally frame a fairly explicit question, but that just put by him leaves me in some bewilderment as to what he really desires to know.
– I merely wish to know whether the report has been censored since it appeared in the evening paper.
– I am not aware of any censorship of the report. Ministers are not acquainted of all that the censors are doing unless they are asked to make inquiries on the subject. The censorship is operating throughout Australia under general rules, and we are not acquainted with the particulars as to what is done. So far as the Government are concerned, however, I may say at once that there is no political significance attaching to the occurrence to which the honorable member alludes, and that, so far as I am aware, no action has been taken to suppress, in the case of the morning newspapers, whatmay have appeared in any evening paper.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister in a position to put before the House the policy of the Government in reference to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration?
- Mr. Speaker–
– ‘Order! I would remind honorable members that it is not in accordance with parliamentary practice to ask for expressions of opinion on matters of policy. Such questions should notbe put.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister in the near future make a statement to the House in reference to the recent decision of the High Court regarding the enforcement of awards made by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court?
– I thoroughly indorse your statement, Mr. Speaker, if I may be permitted to do so, in regard to putting, without notice, questions affecting matters of policy. Ministers are too often asked to answer such questions without notice, and it is not fair that we should be placed in that position.
– The Acting Prime Minister has already promised to make a statement on this subject.
– There isa difference between a question as to whether a certain action will be taken and one as to whether it will be taken to-day.
– That is a different matter.
– Those of my honorable friends opposite who have enjoyed Ministerial office appreciate the difference. As to the honorable member’s question, I may say that the matter is listed for consideration by Cabinet. The AttorneyGeneral is conducting his investigations upon the data to which I referred before, namely, the High Court judgments.
Taking of Ballot - Issue of Pamphlets
– Can the Minister in Charge of Recruiting give the House definite information as to when he expects any result from the voluntary ballot now being carried on in connexion with recruiting, or whether he has come to the conclusion universally held by the general public as to the futility of the whole thing?
– We have experienced very great difficulty in compiling lists of eligibles in the various States. We had only the war census cards of 1915 to work upon; but, with the assistance of officers of the Electoral, Police, and Postal Departments, we have compiled a list with fairly satisfactoryresults. I hope to be able next week to announce when we shall send out the ballot cards, and the subsequent date on which the ballot will be taken.
– When will you get the recruits?
-I shall be in a better position next week to give a reply to the latter part of the honorable member’s question.
– Havecomplaints reached the Minister for Recruiting, as to the objectionable and generally odious character of certain prints that are being circulated, with the avowed object of stimulating recruiting, and as to their being likely to really prejudice recruiting? Further, have complaints reached thehonorable gentleman that these prints, in many cases, have been sent to persons who have already suffered bereavement in this war, as well as to persons over sixty years of age, and that this has given rise to a feeling of annoyance, and to the criticism that persons who themselves are eligible for enlistment are addressing this kind of literature to ineligibles, or those who have already served?
– It is a fact that we have received some letters complaining of the nature of certain illustrations in the pamphlets sent out. On the other hand, we have had many letters eulogizing the character of these illustrations and of the pamphlets generally. It is also a fact that the pamphlets and letters, in some cases, have, unfortunately, been sent to persons whose sons have been killed at the Front, as well as to men over military age. Out of 160,000 pamphlets issued, however, less than 3¼ per cent. have been sent to such people.
– Do not think you get them all back. Two were sent to my house, although I am over age, and my only son at home is a cripple.
– Fifteen of them were, unfortunately, sent to homes from which men had enlisted, and had been killed at the Front, but the, majority of these men were killed subsequent to the commencement of the compilation of the lists.
– I have a letter that was sent to the address of a man who was killed two years ago.
– Order ! Answers to questions cannot be debated.
– Under the system of compiling lists - -
– It is a downright scandal !
– Order ! If Ministers are not to be allowed to answer without interruption, questions put to them, I shall have to put a stop to further questions without notice. I should regret to have recourse to that procedure, but honorable members must recognise that the House is largely entering upon an abuse of the system of asking and answering questions without notice. The House should assist the Speaker to secure the conduct of such business in proper and regular form. I must insist that when an honorable member is asking, or a Minister is replying to, a question, he shall be heard without interruption. Neither questions Dor answers to questions are open to debate.
– Does the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard) think that he is going to escape responsibility for all the mistakes that are being made in his Department by simply sitting down and not answering questions?
– I ask the Minister not to answer that question.
– Then we shall move the adjournment of the House on the matter. We will have questions answered.
– Order ! I remind the House that the answering of questions is a matter entirely for the discretion of Ministers, and that questions must be kept within certain prescribed limits. This has been pointed out on several occasions; and perhaps it would be just as well, for the guidance of. honorable members, if I quote a passage from May on the subject: -
Questions addressed to Ministers should relate to the public affairs with which they are officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.
Within these lines an explanation can be sought regarding the intentions of the Govern ment, but not an expression of their opinion upon matters of policy. An answer to a question cannotbe insisted upon if the answer be refused by the Minister on the ground of the public- interest; nor can the question be replaced upon the notice-paper, or the refusal of the Minister to answer the question be raised as a matter of privilege.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. According to your ruling, I submit that my question is in order. It is a question as to the administration of the recruiting officers of the Commonwealth under the direction of the Minister for Recruiting (Mr. Orchard).
– I understood the honorable member to refer to the refusal of the Minister to answer a question previously asked. The answering of questions is. entirely within the discretion of Ministers themselves. But the Speaker has the right to disallow questions which, in his opinion, should not be asked or answered.
– In view of rumours that are afloat, will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether there is any intention on the part of his Department to vary or remove the prohibition against the importation of citrus fruits into Australia?
– There is no suchintention.
Applications for Discharge
– Some time ago I drew the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence to the case of several original Anzacs,. returned here on furlough, who are likely to suffer very severe financial loss unless they can obtain their release. Havingregard to the large number of eligibles in all the Departments, will the Minister give special attention to the request of these men, and see if it is not possible to give them the relief they desire ?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s proposal to the Minister for Defence.
– Yesterday, the Treasurer, at my request, furnished a return showing the number of eligibles, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, employed in the Taxation Department, Melbourne. The summary showed, approximately, that thirty had joined the Australian Imperial Force, that there were thirty-three rejects and ninety-four returned soldiers employed in the Department here, and that 168 of the employees did not come within any one of these classes. Will the Treasurer endeavour to enforce in this Department the rule of preference of employment to returned soldiers ?
– I did not attempt to analyze the return very carefully when laying it on the table of the House. I gave it to the honorable member as soon as I received it; but, so far as the Departments with which I am associated are concerned, wherever possible returned soldiers will be given preference. I am a believer in the principle, and will see, so far as I am able, that it is enforced.
Advice of the- Admiralty.
– I should like to know from the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt), or the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), whether it would be possible to acquaint the House with the nature of the communications between the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) a-n’d this Government, conveying the advice of the Admiralty as to the urgency of the construction of Naval Bases for Australia. Would it be possible to give this information to the House, with the necessary safeguards as to confidential, communications ?
– Another Minister and myself have, on two different occasions, conveyed to the House at suitable times, and- 1 think in a suitable way, the fact that we have consulted the authorities of the Admiralty in relation to important matters - in relation to -our Base programme and our Fleet programme. We have given, in general terms, so far as is permissible or proper, what is the determination ; and at this time I do not feel disposed to publicly say in Parliament anything further on the matter. If honorable members desire and request information to be given privately, I will consider the request, but I would not be justified in going further in open House.
– As the value of the advice of the Admiralty in reference to the Naval Bases depends on the time that advice was tendered - that is to say, whether it was tendered at the time we might reasonably anticipate the German Navy would .cease to be - can the Acting Prime Minister inform us when the Admiralty was last asked for advice, and when the advice was tendered?
– I am afraid I cannot depend on my memory sufficiently to answer that question. Speaking purely from memory, we have, I think, asked advice on three occasions.’ At the present time, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) is in close conference with the Lords of the Admiralty so far as that is possible in this period of stress on this and related matters, which, if I could announce them, would, I think, be quite satisfactory to the House.
Gift of 200,000 Sixpences
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) been drawn to a press advertisement in which a company announces that it is it’s intention to give away 200,000. sixpences for the purpose of proving that a certain article they propose to sell to the public is a -good one? Is the honorable gentleman aware that the retail grocers have declined to handle that article, and does he propose to -take any action to suppress this imposition on the public?
– I have not heard anything of this before, and I should not liketo pronounce whether the proposition is a good or a bad one. I shall consider the matter to see how far I can go in the direction desired by the honorable member.
– I have, on former occasions, asked whether it is a fact that country butchers are closing their shops so that they may not be called upon to comply with the price regulations, and are charging exorbitant rates for . their meat.
– I previously requested the honorable member to supply me with specific instances; and if he can do so, they will be immediately inquired into. Every specific instance of a breach of the regulations has been inquired into.
Williamstown Ship-yards: Alleged Mismanagement.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Melborne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The mismanagement of the shipbuilding yards at Williamstown, causing grave industrial turmoil.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I regret having to take the course of moving the adjournment of the House ; and I can assure the Minister concerned (Mr. Poynton) that I have no personal feeling in the matter. The outcome of the deputation of ship-yard workmen yesterday to the Assistant Minister for the Navy renders it necessary that something should be done. The press has published an account of what took place at that deputation, and certain actions and utterances of mine are embodied in the report. I wish to say at once that the Minister himself was the cause of the trouble, and was very agitated throughout the whole of the proceedings. Personally, I have no animus against the Minister, and it was no action of mine that gave rise to the events of yesterday. I raise the question to-day because the honorable gentleman has refused to do anything in connexion with this urgent business; as a matter of fact, he refused to hear the statements that the deputation desired to make. Before I had an opportunity to introduce the deputation, the Minister at once attacked those composing it on a certain question, and called for their admission or denial before he would hear them. I could see that trouble was imminent, and, after some further remarks between the Minister and the deputation, I asked permission to withdraw the members of it, sothat I might re-introduce them with some sort of unanimity on their part. This proved that I had no desire for any trouble with the Minister. When the deputation returned to the presence of the Minister, he took the ground that they had no right to express an opinion as to how the work is conducted at these particular yards; he held that they could not possibly have any knowledge in that regard, and that all the knowledge and rights were on the part of the management.
– Who is the manager?
- Mr. C urchin, who. is paid £2,000 a year; though, being simply a naval architect, he knows nothing about shipbuilding. It is a further remarkable fact that the local manager. of the yard, Mr. Pickering, is not a shipbuilder either.
Mr.Austin Chapman. - These are not isolated cases.
– That is so. The gentleman who was previously in charge in Victoria has accepted an offer from the New South Wales Government, and thus we have lost his services. Why that gentleman was allowed to go I cannot conceive. According to the attitude of the Minister to the deputation, he evidently is of the opinion that the trained artisans employed at the yard know nothing about the trade. We all know that aprivate soldier is as well able as an adjutant to say whether a drill is being properly conducted ; and . the understrappers in any Department are quite able to appreciate whether the head is conducting the business in an efficient way.
The conduct of the Commonwealth Ship-yards is of interest, not only to the Minister and the management, but to the men who work there, and to the community at large. Statements made by the men had appeared in the newspaper, and when they asked the Minister to allow them to substantiate those statements, surely he ought to have permitted them to do so? He not only refused to hear them, but said that they were not judges of the matter, and he could not listen to them on the point. It is time that the country knew the exact position at these yards. I know that the present Minister took over the duties of the office from another, and, to my mind, did his onerous work well. As I have already said, I have no ill-feeling against the honorable gentleman, but I must call attention to the peculiar position at these shipbuilding yards. The least the Minister could have done at the deputation was to put his own feelings on one side, and allow the men to state their case in regard to the statements that had appeared in the Herald.
– The accuracy of which they deny.
– They did not deny the accuracy of the statements, but wished to reiterate them. When the Minister refused to hear them, I took the members of the deputation outside, and said to them, “ Do you want to have your case tried?” and they replied in the affirmative. Then I told them, “Very well, if so, you must pacify the Minister in some way.” But, like Woodrow Wilson with the Germans, the Minister demanded an unconditional surrender, his idea, apparently, being to make them crawl on their stomachs before he would hear them. The Minister would not hear them unless they un conditionally surrendered in respect of all they thought and all they had done. Now the Minister says that the deputation- denied the accuracy of the report. The deputation had to adopt certain methods in order to get a hearing, and . I am pleased that they took my advice. The men affirm that all the statements reported in the Herald are correct, and they ask for an opportunity to prove them. If the Minister will not provide the opportunity, it is the duty of the Government to do so. It is all very well for the Minister to brush the statements aside in a highhanded fashion. I assert that Mr. Curchin knows nothing about shipbuilding. He may be a good naval architect, but he is not a shipbuilder.
– Has he had any experience ?
– None whatever. Neither can we get any proof that Mr. Pickering, the controller, has any experience, but men who understand shipbuilding say that it is evident that he has not. It is wonderful to me that the Minister does not realize that the matter requires investigation. This is the report published in the Herald of 22nd October -
Allegations in regard to the conditions of work at the Williamstown Shipbuilding Yards were made at a meeting of the Victorian executive of the Australasian Society of Engineers last night.
Speakers asserted that essential tools had disappeared and had not been replaced, that even necessary bolts and nuts could riot be obtained, that men were told to “ keep out of sight,” because there was no work for them to do, and that certain officials were trying to drive the members of the Australasian Society out of the yards.
Eventually the following motion was carried : -
That, failing an inquiry by the Minister into the charges made, at which inquiry the Australasian Society of Engineers shall have due representation, we favour cancelling the shipbuilding Agreement with the. Government.
This motion is to be submitted by the executive to a mass meeting; of the men.
It was because of that motion that the Minister refused to receive the deputation. He said to the men, “ If it is true that that motion were carried I will not hear you.” He would not allow them to explain that the motion had been moved at a meeting of the executive and had not been referred to the main body. However, after a discussion outside the Minister’s room, the deputation returned and was allowed to proceed. The report continues -
The opening speaker said that difficulty had been experienced in expediting work now in hand at the yards, and as from the beginning there had been hostility on the part of certain officials to the Australasian Society, an effort was being made to cast the blame on its members. The definite charge was made that the members of the society .were incompetent. This charge was not laid at present against the members of other organizations at the yard. There was not a semblance of truth, in the allegation that members of the Australasian Society were incompetent. (Hear, hear.) Neither, was there any truth in the allegation that work had been delayed by the engineers.
Deficiency in Stores.
The reverse was true. Among other things there was a deficiency in stores, tools, and appliances, and the men claimed that certain officials in responsible positions had not before been identified with shipbuilding and could not direct operations. The attitude adopted by the management towards the Australasian Society had been one of hostility from first to last. These complaints had been placed before the Minister from time to time, and sworn affidavits had been put in, but he appeared to have been swayed by. other advices in dealing with these matters. ‘ In view of the Minister’s attitude they had come to the conclusion that there was no other course open but to take drastic action - ( Applause. )
The next speaker had a number of complaints to make about men being put off. He alleged that a pattern-maker had been brought from Ballarat to the yards, and had then been put off; another man in the fitting shop was dismissed, and on asking what charge was there against him, was told that there was a shortage of work. Men had been brought long distances to the yards, and had broken up their homes, only to be put off. The speaker complained, that there had .been an attempt to “ blackball “ him at the yards by. asking everybody to undertake a job which it was alleged ho could not do, while the real reason was that . there were no appliances there to do the job with. It Was disgraceful that a returned soldier should have been dismissed. °
Obstacles in Wat.
Another member of the executive said that ever since he had been engaged upon a certain machine at the yards every possible obstacle had been put in his way. When he took the machine over ho found that it had been tampered with and sot up so that it would not work. There were no tools to enable him to work the machine, even after it had been righted. One job had been lying unfinished at the shop ever since he had been there. (Laughter.) There was no machine at the yard suitable to do the job in question. The reason, the speaker asserted, that they wished to get him off his machine was that there were only three men in Victoria who could work it. When he asked that some repairs be done the- other day the blacksmith told him there were no tools in the blacksmith’s shop to do the work with. “It is nothing for us to take two or three days over a job and then have to do it over again two or three times,” was the next complaint voiced. “If we want packing we have to use undersizes or oversizes and make it fit as best we can,” continued this engineer. “ If bolts or nuts are required the man has to get them from the ‘ scrapheap and file them off. There is no such thing as assortment of tools, and we have no small spanners. There are no plans to work by, and after getting half way through a job you will find that it has to be done another way. The material which has been wasted is alarming. I can. honestly say that since Friday I have only done four or five hours’ real work, and when I asked for instructions I was told, to keep out of the way as there was nothing for me. (Laughter.) That time will be booked against me, and I will be informed that I should have done the work more quickly. There was none to do. (Laughter.) One job had to be done three times, and when I did some necessary filing I was told not to interfere with work of which the foremanwas proud. After this job was put up it was found to be all wrong and it took ten days to fix it up again, because I was not allowed to do work which any one could see was necessary. This particular job had teen completed in the wrong way before the Australasian engineers entered the ya.rd, so they can’t blame us. Another job was put in place on the vessel, and it was not until three months after that they discovered it had to have keyways in it, and it had to be taken down, (Great laughter ) I had previously told them it would have to have keyways.”
Surely any Minister could see that statements like the foregoing demand inquiry, but from the very outset of the deputation the Minister was determined not to hear what the men had to say. The men say that there is no material on the job, yet the Department is asking the society for fifteen more fitters, five turners, and other men. The Department well knows that . the society is not a large body, and the Government are having trouble with another organization of engineers. Naturally, the men desire to know why these additional men -are wanted. The Department asks for five more turners when there are only two spare machines, on which the apprentices work. Why are fifteen more fitters required? The men say that the purpose of the Department is either to make the society admit that it cannot supply the men or to replace workmen already on the job. Are men to be asked to leave their jobs and go to Williamstown to do temporary repair^ work ? We know that no machinery is available for additional labour. The men say that the Department is asking for these men for a certain purpose; -the Minister replies that they have no right to consider whether a certain action by the Department will put them out of work. His attitude reminds me of a boss for whom I worked about thirty years ago, and who used to say, “I am running this show; you have no rights at all.” That was the idea of the old bosses. Surely the Minister will not contend that the men have no right to conjecture, on the basis of the knowledge that they have, that the additional tradesmen who are required are intended to supplant the present employees.
– Was not the contention of the Minister that the men should place their grievances before the authorities in a proper way instead of ventilating them in the press?
– They have been continually attempting to get redress, and they held a meeting in the shipyard, at which a reporter was present. Honorable members know- how assiduous reporters are in seeking copy. That is how the report appeared in the Herald. I claim that the members of the deputation were courteous in their remarks to the Minister, and I do not think that anything more than courtesy and a plain statement should have been expected from them. They should not have been asked to surrender all their manhood. Unfortunately, the Minister was agitated from the very commencement of the interview. I admit that he has difficult problems to face, and I do not wish to speak harshly of him; but in view of the known shortage in machinery and material, the statements of the men should receive consideration. After the deputation yesterday a general meeting of the society was held, and the following motion was carried: -
That this meeting of the members of the Australasian Society of Engineers, after hearing the report of the deputation that waited on the Acting “Minister for the Navy to-day (24th October), is of opinion that the Minister in refusing an inquiry is refusing justice, and that we still adhere to our previous decision to fight for an inquiry, and instruct the acting secretary to get in touch with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and ask him to bring the matter under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister, and that delegates be at once sent to Sydney and Adelaide to bring under the notice of our branches there the attitude of the Minister and the decision of the Melbourne branch .
I did not adopt the course suggested by ‘ the resolution, because I think the practice of worrying the Acting Prime Mini’s^ter in regard to every matter is unfair to him and to other Ministers. I considered it preferable to adopt the course I am now pursuing. I have no desire to bring about industrial trouble.
– That is a new attitude on the part of the honorable member.
– I have said repeatedly that I believe in the strike in preference to arbitration ; but I am not looking for industrial trouble, and I claim from the Minister an admission that, in regard to the present matter I have’ not been aggressive. But, as a representative of the men, I refused to remain in the room and hear them bullied and told they had no rights. At every attempt, they made to explain their position they were pulled up by the Minister.
– The T)oot was on the other foot.
– Nothing of the sort. I admit that I demanded that the men should be heard properly, but the Minister pointed to the door. It was then that I expressed the desire that he might go somewhere else. I have not in any way sought to bring about trouble. I have introduced numbers of deputations to Ministers, as many as any other honorable member has, and I have never had trouble before. In fact, the Assistant Minister for the Navy is a personal friend of mine, and we have talked over this matter on previous occasions, but the method pursued on this occasion was most peculiar, and the deputation was not received in the ordinary way.
– If half of what the honorable member says is correct, the establishment ought to be closed down.
– Why close down the yard? If the workmen are bad, we should employ better men. If the management is bad, we should appoint new managers. I cannot understand why the Minister refuses to have an inquiry.
-. - What sort of inquiry does the honorable member want?
– An inquiry by the men.
– I do not want an inquiry by the men, but they claim that they should have representatives on any inquiry board, who could put- forward their side of the question. It is a fair claim that they should have the opportunity of stating their case. As this matter is one of considerable interest to the community, I am justified in asking the Ministry to give consideration to the request of the men, especially now that the matter has been ventilated in the press, and charges have been made against, the management of the yard. Even if there should be no proof in support of those charges forthcoming, at any rate there is good ground for inquiry. An inquiry board, comprising the heads of some of the Departments, with a representative of the men, would satisfy me, but I want action to be taken immediately, so that the management will have no opportunity of “ whitewashing “ themselves. If they cannot stand an investigation of this- sort, they have no right to occupy the positions they hold, and as the charges made by the men are so transparently true, I wonder, the Minister cannot acknowledge it. Mr. Curchin is not a shipbuilder; he is a naval architect; a sort of superior draughtsman; and we have been endeavouring “ to ascertain from Mr. Pickering where he served twenty years as foreman, and the particular branch of shipbuilding of which he was foreman. When I submitted a question to the Minister, he tried to ‘be funny, and said that Mr. Pickering had been foreman of a tailor’s shop. At Wednesday’s deputation to the Minister, eight different branches of shipbuilding work were represented. We want to know what’ branch of shipbuilding Mr. Pickering was foreman of. and whether he was in charge of a branch that would make him capable of filling the position which he is now occupying. It is very apparent that Mr. Curchin and Mr. Pickering are not the men to run the yard at Williamstown, and that there should be a change. I can understand the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) interjecting that if only half of what I have said is true the yard at Williamstown ought to be closed down. Can any one deny the ability of an artisan to judge the way in which things are being carried on ? Any artisan can tell by the way in which a man handles a tool whether he is a competent tradesman, just as a lawyer can tell by the way a man handles a brief whether he is a member of the legal profession or not. The Minister has no right to claim that the men in the yard are not capable of forming a judgment in these matters. They are tradesmen. The management are not. I have taken the only means .available to me of bringing this matter forward. Unfortunately, I cannot goany further forward, because on his own uncorroborated ipse dixit the Minister will get up - and rebut every statement I have made, and that will finish the business. Nevertheless, the statements made by these men are worthy of investigation, and if the Minister shirks an inquiry he will not be doing his duty or giving justice to the people of this community.
– I am somewhat astonished at the honorable member’s anxiety to prevent industrial turmoil, seeing that he has repeatedly stated in the House his belief in it, and that his attitude towards the ship-yard at “Williamstown has always been in that direction. He has made the most glaring and incorrect statements in connexion with the management of this yard that have ever come under my notice. As a matter of fact, they do not agree with the statements which the men themselves have made. I asked them yesterday categorically whether, they indorsed the report which had appeared in the Melbourne Herald, and they denied the truth of the statements appearing in it.
– Because you compelled them to do -so. You would not hear them, and I took them outside.
– I did not say a word while the honorable member, was speaking. The men also denied the reference to the dismissal of a returned SOl.dier
– What sort of a man are you?
– Order !
– I do not propose to listen to him ‘lying in that way.
– The honorable member occupied half -an-h our in stating his case. The Minister has only fifteen minutes in which to reply, and I ask the honorable member to allow him to speak without interruption.
– The honorable member has made charges against Mr. On rel i in and Mr. Pickering. I venture to say that the men have made no charges against them. In no instance has a charge been made to me by the men against these two gentlemen. The charges they have made are against the foreman, who was taken over from the Victorian State Government when the yard was transferred to the Commonwealth, and it is not a new matter - in fact, it has been before me practically from the first day on which I went into the Department. It has no connexion with the shipbuilding scheme. These men are employed on the work of finishing a dredge which was in the yard incomplete at the time of the. transfer from the Victorian Government, and which we are finishing. There has been constant turmoil in regard to that particular work. The men want me to do what I certainly will not do, and that is to institute an inquiry into the competency of the management, and they want to -say - they stated it distinctly yesterday, and the honorable member has indorsed it to-day - whether wo shall employ additional hands or not. lt is the most absurd claim that has ever come under my notice. The first complaint that reached me was that the foreman was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and they had suspicions that he was not giving them a fair deal. They said that if they had a chargeman appointed from their own society - the Australasian Society of Engineers - things would be all right, because then they would not come into contact with the foreman. I acted on their request, arid a chargeman was appointed from their own society, but not the man they wished to put into the position. As it matter of fact, the man who is making the greatest fuss to-day is the one they wished to have appointed as chargeman”. Lf we are to carry on shipbuilding, the management must have control of the yards; and, although I have taken up the position all .along that I am always available to hear the men’s complaints in regard to any grievances concerning pay or working conditions, “when they came to me to talk about the management, or say that this or that had not been done properly, I told them, as I repeated yesterday, that it was not part of their duty to do this. There can be- no discipline in the shipbuilding yard if every time a complaint is submitted it takes the nature of an allegation against the competency of the management and a demand for an inquiry.
– The Minister has saidthat the men had no charges to prefer against the management.
– I said that they had no charge to prefer against Mr. Curchin or Mr. Pickering. Many honorable members are well acquainted with the late Mr. McKay, who was in charge of . the large engineering works of Walkers Limited, at Maryborough, in Queensland. . On one occasion he paid a visit to the yard at Williamstown prior- to the taking of a contract for the building of ships by Walkers Limited, and in my office he spoke of the competent men who were in charge of the yard. I asked whom he referred to, and he said that he spoke of the management generally. It was on the very day that I had received a- letter from the men, signed by several names supposed to be representing several societies, in which they found fault with the management, and suggested that I should take the men in the central office and place them in charge of the yard and get- rid of the men in control there. Therefore, I was interested in what Mr. McKay said, and I asked him if he could mention the men to whom he particularly referred. The first man he mentioned was Mr. Pickering. He said, “He is one of the most capable men I have come across.”- I said to Mr. McKay, “ How much would he be worth to you in your yard ?” He replied, “ If you do not want him I am quite prepared to give him £750 a year for his services.” Mr. McKay was capable of judging the class of work which Mr. Pickering was carrying out.
– What are we paying him?
– I think it is £600 or £650. I do not know where he comes from.
– Was he in charge of the yard when it was taken over from the State Government?
– Mr. Curchin appointed him.
– He was not occupy ing the position when we took over the yard from the State, and I suppose that Mr.Curchin appointed him. So far as I know, Mr.Curchin and Mr. Pickering are both very competent men. There has been a considerable amount of feeling displayed towards the foreman, who was taken over from the Victorian yard. The men thought that as he was a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers he would not give them a fair deal. However, a chargeman was appointed from their own society. I told them yesterday that if what they had been reported to have said was true, he should be sacked instantly, because the blame lay at his door; but they said that the statements in the press report’ were not correct. In fact, they denied categorically what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has said to-day.
– They did nothing of the sort.
– The report stated that unless I proposed to do something they would do something, and as I objected to that sort of talk I asked them if the report in the Herald had the indorsement of their society or whether it was merely the statement of two or three men. When I asked whether they had said, as reported, that unless I held the inquiry into the management they were going to give me forty-eight hours’ notice that they would cancel the shipbuilding agreement, they said that that was not a correct statement.
– They said it was a correct statement of what was said by the executive.
– The honorable member quotes the statement to-day as if it were a correct statement.
– It is a correct statement of what was said by the executive, but not by the union.
– When I asked the men, “Do you want me to believe that you have to go to the scrap heap to get bolts and nuts ? “ they said that that was not correct. When i asked them, “Is it true that a returned soldier has been discharged?” the soldier, who was present, said, “ No, Mr. Poynton, that is not true.” He said he was afraid that he was going to be discharged because the management was asking for another man for -the same class of work that he had been doing. This man took up the position that he was entitled to say that there was no room for another man. Whether there was or not, I do not know, but the management, in my opinion, is the best judge of that. In consequence of a pressing desire to complete work, I sent to this society to secure additional men. It was arranged that we should put on something like sixteen additional men. The work they were required for is very intricate work in connexion with machinery for the dredge.
– There are no machines for the men to do the work.
– That is another of the remarkable statements made by the honorable member. Until I saw the statement which appeared in the newspapers I had not heard a word of complaint for the last three months, that is, after the foreman was appointed. Directly the request for additional men went to the society a fuss was made. They immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were to be discharged, and they took up the position, which I think no Minister should tolerate, that they should say whether we required additional men or not. I say unhesitatingly that I do not intend to permit an inquiry by the employees into the management. If that were permitted, all disciplinein the yards would be at an end.
– The Minister satisfied himself thoroughly on the subject?
– To thebest of my knowledge, I did. As I told the men yesterday, they may be very capable at their own work, but I question whether any of them is capable of judging the management of the yard. Anyhow, that is absolutely outsidetheir functions. I may be wrong in thinking so, but that is my conviction; and, so long as I hold my present position, I say that the men in charge of the yard should not be the persons to judge whether men are to be put on or taken off, otherwise we cannot carry on the work of shipbuilding at all . In connexion with any other matters where the men have had legitimate grievances they have been heard, and where I believed they were justified in the complaints they made I did what was necessary to remedy their grievances. But when it comes to dictating to me as to the number of men who. are to be employed, who is to be in charge of the yard, and the particular persons who are to be appointed to positions, I do not propose to submit to that kind of thing.
– I should think the honorable gentleman would not. He was never asked to do so.
Ma-. POYNTON.- If the House decides that there should be an inquiry, well and good, but I tell honorable members that, so far as I am concerned, I shall not grant an inquiry on the terms that have been indicated.
– I do not know very much about this matter, andperhaps I am, therefore, better qualified to speak about it. I have had several interviews with soldiers, and with one in particular whom I met in France, and who is working at these yards. As this man has been referred to by the Minister, I want to tell honorable members the statements he made to me. He complained to me, and was very bitter against the management.
– Against which officer - Mr. Pickering ?
– Against both of them; he said they were both absolutely incompetent.
– Both Mr. Curchin and Mr. Pickering?
– Yes, both of them. He said that both were absolutely incompetent. This returned soldier, I may tell honorable members, is not himself an incompetent man.
– I do not say that he is.
– After having been in France, he went to London, and, though marked “C1,” he still wanted to serve his “country, and obtained permission to serve in one of the munition factories. He had charge of a very big machine in one of the munition factories in. Great Britain, and he knows what ho is talking about. He assured me that at these yards, if they wanted bolts, they had to go to the scrap heap to get them. He further said that halfthe time they were doing nothing down there. These men do not want to have control of the yards, or to take the place of the management or of the Minister, but if this kind of thing is going on, they are justified in going before the Minister and voicing their complaints. The Minister has said that they made no complaint -against the management.
– I say that I never heard one complaint against either Mr. Curchin or Mr. Pickering; the only complaint was against the foreman.
– Yet the . Minister agrees that the request of the men was for an inquiry into the management.
– Into the qualifications of the foreman.
– I think that the men have every right to ask for an inquiry. I feel sure that the’ Minister cannot have changed very much from what he was when he was mining at Allendale, and was a member of a trade union. He was then a man who stood up for his union.
– Order !
Mr.Poynton. - The honorable member had better keep civil, or I may give him more change than he wants.
– I was merely going to say that the Minister was a good trade unionist, staunch to his union, and one who insisted that the rights of his fellow unionists should be respected by the employingclass.
– I never was a member of a deputation to claim that the management’ was wrong. One never sees that done in private employment.
– Whenever there was anything wrong the honorable member was preparedto take up the matter on behalf of his union, and as a unionist he always adopted the attitude that the employees had certain rights and should not be treated as serfs, or as pieces of machinery. In connexion with an institution controlled by the Government, I cannot imagine how it can be contended that employees have not the right to approach a Minister if they think it well to inform him that in connexion with a particular work something is going on which ought not to be allowed. These men do not want to precipitate industrial trouble, and I ask the Minister to let an inquiry be held. The men make definite charges. We desire - and I am sure the Minister also desires - that our shipbuilding efforts shall be successful. If there be any truth in the statement that the managers are incompetent, our shipbuilding venture is doomed to failure, and we do not desire that. I am satisfied that the Minister would like it to be a success. We know how much depends upon it, because the war may not be over for a year or for two years, and the enemies’ submarines may continue to be active. It is, in the circumstances, essential to the interests of Australia that we shall make satisfactory progress in shipbuilding in this country. This will be impossible if we have a body of men engaged in the industry who are labouring under what they conceive to be a genuine grievance against the management. Their grievance may not be genuine, but sometimes illusions cause more trouble than is caused by genuine grievances. I ask the Minister not to be stubborn, and to have an inquiry by competent men, and let us know whether the men in charge of these yards are thoroughly competent to carry out their work. There must.be something wrong if the statement is true that the men are walking about half their time doing nothing. The returned soldier referred to told me that half their time they were playing cards.
– That needs inquiry.
– It certainly does. If that statement is true it reveals a serious position. I was told that the men get piece-work and earn £1 one day, and next day there is no work for them, and they fill in the time playing cards.
– That is not in connexion with this work at all.
– I am giving the statement of the returned soldier referred to.
– Are we paying for that?
– No,there is no piecework being done by the men who formed the deputation to me yesterday.
– This returned soldier is there.
– He is working a special machine, and it is said that he is one of only three men in Australia who can work it.
– He makes most serious complaints in connexion with that machine. He says that everything possible is done with the machine to make it impossible for him to work it. I know nothing of thedifficulties that occurred while I was absent from Australia, but he goes so far as to make the statement that some men there belong to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, who did not sign the agreement, and they desire that the whole business shall be a failure.
– Did he say who was throwing the obstacles in his way 1
– He says that both these men, Curchin and Pickering, are doing so. That is absolutely the statement he made to me. I have not visited the yard, but, listening to the discussion to-day, I remembered the charges which this man made in conversation with me. I thought there might be something in them, and, after all, they appear to me to be worthy of consideration. The Minister should not be obstinate, and should not assume the attitude that the men have no rights. They are citizens of this community, just as the Minister himself is.
– They are not going to manage the business.
– They are Britishers, and have as deep an interest in the success of shipbuilding as has the Minister himself. If the honorable gentleman remains obstinate in this matter I trust that honorable members will insist on having an inquiry held.
.- There are difficulties in the way of shipbuilding in Australia. There is a shortage of material and of necessary machinery, and there is also a shortage of men trained to shipbuilding, because we have never previously constructed ships in Australia of the size now required. I should be the last man to place any difficulties in the way of extending the shipbuilding industry in Australia in view of the necessities of the world, and particularly of Australia, in the matter of freight. We are feeling the lack of shipping facilities very greatly in the Commonwealth. 1 have represented unionists upon deputations to employers, not. only in Australia, but in other parts of the world. If I returned to my trade to-morrow I should probably find myself on deputations again. I have never worked for. a Government, but I know that in private employ it very often happens that men who are given foremen’s positions are not the best tradesmen. The Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) knows as well as I do that in private employ the men who are prepared to stand up for their rights are not given foremen’s jobs.
– The race is not always to the swift.
– That is true, if the honorable member is referring to shipbuilding in the Commonwealth. We took over the yards at Williamstown before the Prime Minister left for the Old Country in April, and before the Acting Minister took charge. There was a dredge on the stocks there which was being built for the Melbourne Harbor Trust. It is not an exceptionally big dredge, or as big as some of those which previous Governments have been obtaining from abroad. I should think that dredge has been on the stocks at Williamstown now for nearly two years, and the Minister will agree that it is likely to remain there for some months longer before it is completed. I have not been down there since the Commonwealth had charge of the yard, though I did visit the place a few years ago, when the New Zealand was here. No harmcanbe done by an inquiry. We have had inquiries before into other Departments, including one quite recently into the Defence and Navy Departments, and every one who has read the result of that inquiry must admit that it was necessary. One of the recommendations in regard to the Navy Department was that a certain gentleman should be placed in a certain position, and for some very mysterious reason this was done at about the time the report was being printed. I do not want the Minister to run away with the idea that I am concerned about which society these men belong to, whether to the Australasian Society of Engineers or the Amalgamated Society; but what has been said shows that an inquiry is necessary. Hew long did it take the management to have the * Dart* fitted up preparatory to the search for Captain Chugg?
-Surely you do not compare the fitting up of the Dart with the work oh the dredge ?
– No, but the work took longer than should have been necessary.
– The Dart was there only two or three days altogether.
– The Minister would be more correct if he multiplied that by three or four.
– The work was finished yesterday.
– I understand it took about ten days.
– Anyhow, these men were working on the dredge.
– I do not think that the work on the dredge was pushed forward as expeditiously as might have been expected. Possibly there were faults in the management. Managers are not always right. We know that in private employment managers are sometimes displaced by other men in the interests of efficiency. I do not know if these men are members of the Amalgamated Society or not, but I think that, after the representations which have been made by the member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), there is need for an inquiry. Before this motion was submitted, the Minister asked leave to introduce aBill dealing with shipbuilding. This, I presume, is the measure referred to in the Ministerial announcement at the beginning of the session, and which was referred to by the Acting Minister in , hisaddress to members of the National Federation, when hesaid it was the intention of the Government to contract themselves outside the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Naturally, therefore, I am anxious to see the Bill, because I want to see less industrial turmoil in the future. We all know, from experience, that it is far better to grant an inquiry when it has been asked for by a deputation, because if men are in the wrong they will thenbe more satisfied. If, on the other hand, their request is refused, they will nurse their grievances for a long time. In the interests of shipbuilding in Australia, therefore, I urge the Minister to reconsider his decision, because, like all other men, he is liable to make a mistake. If everI make a mistake I do not mind admitting it. I have made mistakes in the’ past, and I have no doubt I will make many in the future. If any man declares that he never makes a mistake, he might fool himself, hut nobody else. I believe an inquiry is necessary in this matter, and that if the request is granted, it will he in the interests of all concerned. If the management is quite’ competent, surely there is nothing to fear from an inquiry, which is long overdue.
– If I were the manager of these yards, and subordinates made charges against me, coupled with a demand for an inquiry, I would not sit down quietly and allow the matter to pass. We cannot afford to make too many mistakes in our shipbuilding schemes, because with our long coastline, and quite apart from oversea trade, we are bound to become a great maritime people, and our shipbuilding ventures are long overdue. It is natural that mistakes should be made in a new undertaking of this nature, just as mistakes were made in other Departments of Government activity. When we commenced the construction of railway engines at Newport many mistakes were made, and the croakers and “ stinkingfish “ party said, “ Let us have no more engines built here. They are costing a terrible sum of money.” But to-day
Newport workshops are turning out engines quite as good, if not better, than those constructed in America or Great Britain, and, what is more important, they are not costing so much.
– There are good people there.
– This result at Newport shows that wisdom has been displayed in selecting the proper class of men to take charge of the works. It has been demonstrated that, under efficient management, the Australian workman, when properly trained, can compete with workmen from any part of the world. If anything is wrong in the supervision of these shipyards, our whole shipbuilding scheme will be a howling farce. Good supervision is the key to success. If I were manager of these yards, I would ask the Minister to appoint an independent Board of Inquiry, so that the matter could be cleared up once and for all, and the public would have an assurance that the management was properly equipped to carry out the work intrusted to it.
– Almost the same charges were made against Mr. King Salter at one time.
– I do not know whether that is so or not, but I am sure that if the honorable member were in charge of these yards, and similar allegations were made against him, he would be one of the first to place all his cards on the table and show his qualifications for the position he occupied. If an inquiry is held, as requested, it will be possible for the management to answer the charges, and if they are refuted the public of Australia will be satisfied.
– The honorable member will admit that it is quite a’ different thing when people who are hostile to the Government ask for an inquiry.
– Quite apart from what was said by the deputation yesterday, a responsible member of this House, representing the constituencyin which shipbuilding is being carried on, has made certain statements which should be inquired into. Hitherto when a charge has been made on the floor of the House, the responsible Minister has always been ready to grant an inquiry. Mr. Fisher invariably took this stand. In this instance I fully expect that a request will come from the management to the Minister for an inquiry, in order’ to satisfy the public. I am not satisfied, but I want to be. I believe also that the Minister wants to be thoroughly satisfied. He may be satisfied, because he may have better information than I possess; but the public will be very much disturbed by this discussion, and will not be satisfied if the whole matter is covered up without an inquiry. In the most friendly way, therefore, I suggest that the Minister, if he has come to a decision, should reconsider the matter, and grant the request.
– I have no ill-feeling, so far as the Minister is concerned, but I point out that while he says there has been no attack on the management, right through his speech he endeavoured to prove that there had been such an attack. All I can say is that it is well known that something is wrong down there. It is well known that the men in charge are not shipbuilders, and if the Minister does not do something in the matter he will be neglecting his duty. .
Question resolved in the negative.
– I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed]
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Having reference to the statement made by the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration, that instances had been furnished to them where a Minister had incurred expenditure either without reference, or in opposition to the Naval Board, and with, it is alleged, unsatisfactory and costly results to the Commonwealth - Is the said Minister a member of the present Australian National War Government, what is his name, and do the Government propose to dismiss him from office?
– I have re-read the paragraph, referred to by the honorable member, in the Royal Commission’s report on Navy Administration, dated 18th September, 1918. The section from which the honorable gentleman has extracted the statement in the question affords me no indication as to who the Minister was to whom attention is directed. Probably a minute examination of the evidence would make this clear. However, all the Ministers who have ever been in control of the Navy Department are at present included in the National Government, but I see no reason to pursue the drastic course which the honorable member suggests.
Organization : Mr. A. S. Whyte
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.FENTON (for Mr. Brennan) asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
With regard to the case of the internee, Mr. H. E. Holken, has he made a statement in writing setting out the reasons why, in his opinion, he should not be interned?
If so, will the Minister allow the legal adviser of Mr. Holken to peruse and take a copy of such statement?
Will the Minister permit the legal adviser of Mr. Holken to interview him, and take a statement, with a view to preparing an application for an inquiry?
Mr.WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
There is no record at Head-Quarters of any such statement. Inquiries will he made from the District Commandant.
Preference to Returned Soldiers : Stores Superintendent : Victualling Costs
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow.: -
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow.:- -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Docking of the “ Cethana.”
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Payments to New South Wales Agents.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will inform the House as to the amount paid individually to Wheat Pool agents operating in New South Wales for the handling of wheat?
– I do not know whether I can obtain this information, but I have not been able yet to do so. It is in the hands of the New South Wales Board; but ifthe honorable member will postpone his inquiry, I will endeavour to ascertain the particulars.
– I asked three months ago.
– Not of me; at any rate, I do not remember the question.
Price of Australian Cement
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the excessive price of galvanized iron, will he consider the advisability of having that commodity manufactured in Australia.?
– Prior to the outbreak of war, Lysaghts Limited, Sydney, were engaged in the erection of works for the manufacture of galvanized iron, and had installed part of the necessary plant. War conditions had made it impossible to obtain the remainder of. the plant required, despite the efforts of the Munitions Directorate to assist them in this direction, and it is improbable that such plant can be obtained till after the war. It is believed that once the necessary plant is secured, this firm will be able to supply practically all Australia’s requirements of galvanized iron.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 272, 273.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1918, No, 270.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 7220), on motion by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When I secured leave to continue my remarks last night I had made a statement with respect to the numbers constituting the British electorate under the revised franchise. I remarked that there were about 20,000,000 people who would be in the new electorate. At the time, the debate having arisen unexpectedly, I had not the authorities with me, and some honorable members opposite questioned the accuracy of my figures. I have to admit that, with regard to the numbers previously on the British roll, under the old franchise, I made an error by mentioning that the total was 12,000,000, instead of which it should have been 8,500,000. But, concerning the numbers to be added to the roll, I was approximately correct in quoting the total at somewhere about 10,000,000 people. The actual figures I have taken from Whitaker’s Almanac for 1917. This work of reference sets out the franchise in 1916. The total number of British electorson the roll, the year before that, was 8,357,648. The population in 1914 was 46,431,514. I have ascertained the numbers to be added to the roll by reference to a Hansard report of the British House of Commons, dated 22nd May, 1917. Therein, Mr. J. B. Watson says -
The right honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill pointed out that the old register for the United Kingdom contained rather more than 8,000,000 voters, and this measure will add rather less than 3,000,000 male voters. To this 11,000,000, about 6,000,000 women will be added, or rather less than half the adult female population. The whole electorate will be raised to something like 17,000,000, of whom 6,000,000 would be women.
The total British electorate, therefore, instead of being about 20,000,000, as I indicated-
– The honorable member said 22,000,000 last night. .
– I have just explained that I was under the impression that the old roll contained something like 12,000,000 names, and that the new roll would add about another 10,000,000, making the aggregate about 22,000,000. It appears now that the total new electorate will comprise somewhere about 17,500,000. It means that there will be more voters added to the new electorate than has ever before voted in Britain.
I have attemptedto point out that, in my opinion, if this Parliament desired to introduce a proper system of political democracy, instead of honorable ‘members being required to discuss such a measure as this we would be dealing with the initiative, the referendum, and the right of recall - the initiative, in order to give the people outside Parliament power to initiate Bills for the Legislature; the referendum, to permit electors as a whole to signify their approval or disapproval of proposed legislation ; and the recall, to enable electors to exercise proper and necessary control over their political delegates. I believe that the logical outcome of a reformed Parliament of this description would be that the elected representatives of the people, instead of acting as we do now - that is, in talking for the most part on proposed legislation - and having very little material effect upon the country as a whole - would elect the Government of the day; and the members themselves would be divided into Committees. The whole Parliament would resolve itself into a business Committee, and could be subdivided into Committees to deal with necessary legislation. Every member would have a direct interest in proposed legislation, and the Government of the day would be a truly National Government, since it would be elected by the whole of the representatives of the people. That is my conception of a democratic Parliament in the sense of political Democracy - the parliamentary machine democratized, brought up to date, and made efficient, the people having the power to initiate legislation and to pass their verdict upon it after it has been drafted.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was remarking that, though, .political Democracy, as I have at-, tempted to outline it, is eminently desirable and necessary, it does not, from my point of view, affect the real question at issue in this, as in every other country, . namely, the establishment, not merely of political, but of industrial Democracy. In every age, and in every land, the social, intellectual, and governmental institutions have reflected, and have arisen out of, the prevailing economic system of that country and period. This is clearly shown in the evolution of the parliamentary system of government in British1 speaking countries. I have already endeavoured to prove this, though perhaps I have not dealt with it in an adequate maimer, because it is inevitable that, if I attempted to deal with the subject of sociology generally, I should be led away from the discussion of electoral matters. But the conflicting economic classes have from time to time in the world’s history - from the time of primitive communism, through that of barbarism, and through the feudal period to the present day of capitalistic production for profit and its consequent camouflaged system of wage slavery - seized- power as each became the dominating factor in the economic life of the community, and have reflected themselves in the governing institutions of that period and country. Thus, the aristocratic regime in England was superseded by the rising .capitalistic class, which restricted, the powers of the King, eventually wiped out the authority of the barons, established parliamentary institutions, inaugurated Electoral Acts, and enabled that particular economic class to function politically. Hence we had the Reform Bill as the occasion warranted it. The working classes of Britain are so inadequately enfranchised that under the latest Electoral Act 9,000,000 additional persons will be entitled to vote. Had adult suffrage been adopted, the estimate which I gave last night would have been correct. But women in Great. Britain are not entitled to vote unless they are thirty yeaTS of age and possess certain property qualifications, or unless their husbands possess those qualifications. Consequently, there are millions of women in England to-day who are denied the right to vote. But, nevertheless, then has been, throughout the centuries, a gradual diffusion of political power in the hands of the rising economic classes.
To-day, with the advancement of machinery, and with the development which science has . made possible, the rising economic class of the future comprises the industrial proletariat of the world. The working classes are becoming the dominating factor in modern capitalistic society, and consequently the political power is’ again being re-adjusted. This fact is. evidently recognised, even by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), who, in speaking here on the 26th September of the present year, stated -
When the war is over the workers will no longer be content to .be employees in industries. They will insist on becoming partners in them. Otherwise, there will be a cutthroat revolution, and the red flag will be hoisted.
As a student of political economy, he evidently realizes that economic power is at the base of all political institutions, and that with the growing power of the workers as an economic class, they, in common with every other class which has preceded them in the history of Britain, will demand representation in proportion to their numbers and power. I quits agree with the honorable member when he says that we must take steps to prevent a cut-throat revolution of which he spoke. I am no advocate of a revolution by physical force in order to reconstruct society in Australia.
– The honorable member has never advocated anything else.
-That is a very unkind remark on the part of the honorable member. He knows perfectly well that his statement is not accurate, and if he does not know it, he is not acquainted with the facts. Given the political machinery which I have advocated, a revolution by physical force is neither necessary nor ‘desirable in order to reconstruct society in the interests of those who produce the wealth of this country.
– Has the honorable member ever advocated a round table conference to solve any industrial difficulty?
– Most decidedly, and I have sat at such a conference.
– When I was on strike, and when, acting as the president of the Miners Association in Broken Hill, it was necessary for mo to meet the mine managers in the interests of the people over whom I presided. I may further tell the honorable member that if my recommendations had been accepted there would have been no strike. That, I suppose, is news to him. If he desires any further information on the point, I may tell him that I have advocated only one
– I do not see any reference to strikes and industrial disturbances in this Bill.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) directed my attention to a certain aspect of this question which he regarded as inconsistent with the remarks I was making, and, in order to disillusion him, I gave him a little of my personal history. Perhaps it was unnecessary to do so.
– I do not know whether it was unnecessary; but it was certainly irregular in the. present debate.
– I have become so accustomed to interjections that I thought my remarks were perfectly regular.
When I was interrupted . I was pointing out that if the initiative, referendum, and recall were embodied in our Constitution it would be neither desirable nor necessary to have a revolution by physical force in order to allow those who produce the wealth of this country to control society in their own interests. In attempting to achieve political Democracy–
– What does the honorable member mean by “ Democracy ‘’ ?
– Order ! I am hoping that the honorable member will connect his remarks with the Bill presently. I trust, therefore, that honorable members will refrain from interjecting.
– As the whole of our electoral machinery is now under review, I am endeavouring to point out that the provisions of this Bill do not touch the real question at issue, viz., the establishment of political Democracy in this country. It is, therefore, necessary for me to show where political power originates. I claim’ that it originates with the class which possesses economic power in any community. I have here a work upon Parliamentary Government in England, by Alpheus Todd, and I find - that in vol. 1, page 26, he says -
In a paper read by Professor Leone Levi before the British Association, in September, 1865, on the Statistics of Representation, it is computed that if representation in ‘ England were based upon population, for every 100 votes there should be given four to the upper, thirty-two to the middle, and sixty-four to the working, classes. If, on the other hand, it were in proportion to the amount of taxes paid by each, of every 100 votes eighty-three should be given to the upper classes, thirteen to the middle, and four to the working classes. This will afford some idea of the vast social revolution which would be effected by the introduction of representation according’ to population into the electoral system of England:
That quotation bears out the trend of my argument. I contend that if adequate electoral machinery were established in this country to enable the great mass of the people to originate legislation - if, in short, they had a real system of political Democracy - though a social revolution would be involved, it would not be a revolution by physical force. It would then rest with the workers themselves, and with their organization, to make their requirements felt through the electoral machinery that would be available to them. If, as I claim, industrial Democracy is the real aim,and not political Democracy, even given the initiative, referendum, and recall, which, though not generally operative in America, are operative in many of the States, we should still have, side by side with our political Democracy, the Plutocracy consisting of the coal-owners and the magnates of the steel and other trusts, who, by reason of their wealth, control of the press, and general power, influence and delude the people. They would still be able to maintain their system of exploitation and robbery. That is why I say that, even given the machinery which I claim it should have, political Democracy will not wholly fill the bill. We must therefore go further and establish industrial Democracy..
I agree with the- statement of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), that if we are to avoid a physical force revolution in order to re-adjust the social system we must give the people the machinery which, according to their intellectual development and their ability to use it, will reflect their views in the political and social life of the community. To-day we have a parliamentary system of government which reflects the “ interests “ of this country more or less. Industrial Democracy’ would not have in this country a Parliament based on geographical divisions. It would have as its administrative machinery a Parliament, a Legislative Council, or a Legislative Assembly - call it what you will - ^arising from the indus-. trial Democracy of the nation, and not bounded by the River Murray or the River Darling,, or any other geographical feature. Its Parliament would be representative of the industrial interests of the country. The interests of the agricultural and other workers would be reflected in it. The representatives from the industrial constituencies would come here, and their function would be to operate the machinery of the country in the direction of production for use instead of, as now, for profit. That system is possible of attainment by the machinery of the initiative, referendum, and recall, plus political intelligence. The initiative would give the right to the necessary quota outside Parliament to call for an amendment of the Constitution. The referendum would give us the right so to alter the Constitution as to chance the whole basis of our parliamentary institutions. We could thus wipe out the geographical divisions that return political representatives to this Parliament. ‘ Then, with the power of recall -
– Some of us would be grassed pretty early.
– Possibly so. I represent here the industrial interests of the class to which I belong. I desire to stay here as long as my constituents allow me to stay; but, irrespective of whether I stay here or go outside, I shall still advocate the machinery that I have outlined. No country can call itself a political Democracy that refuses to the mass of the’ people the right to initiate legislation, that refuses to consult them upon the legislation they desire, to have, and denies to them the power to mould their Constitution, and their industrial or political system of society, as seems good to the majority.
– If that system, were applied here, you would probably be the first victim,
– I should not be the first individual who has advocated a reform and been the victim of it, but that does not detract from the justice or logic of my argument. L am one of those who look for a social revolution - a reconstruction of society in the interests of the class to which I belong. Every other class which has preceded our class in the history of the world has, as it has attained economic power, moulded existing institutions to conform to its desires. Our present parliamentary system of government by ‘individuals is the direct outcome of the development of the capitalistic form of society. The future society, to correspond to the economic development of to-day, will be concerned with the administration of industry, and not the government of individuals. Therefore, I tell the Government side that, if they provide the machinery I advocate, they will be taking time by the forelock and avoiding the clash of a physical-force revolution. Instead of sitting on the safety valve, they will provide the people with the power so to ‘alter the basis of their parliamentary institutions as to make them conform to their intellectual development and political strength. If they believe in the reconstruction of society on the lines I have laid down, that will be a sensible thing for them to do. If they do not, they will disagree with the object I have in view. But that does not do away with the fact that those members of the Government party who advocate political Democracy cannot claim to have- established a real political Democracy unless the power is placed in the hands of the people instead of in the hands of a section.
– You are contending for a continuous opportunity which nowpresents itself at least once in every three years.
– The honorable member is referring to the right of recall. The initiative, as I understand it, simply means that a certain quota of the’ populace have the right to call for the initiation of a piece of legislation which they think eminently desirable, and which they believe the majority of the people favour.
– If we had had the initiative we should have had prohibition long ago.
– If the people desire prohibition they should have it, and the machinery should be there to enable them to get it. If the people desire prohibition, not of liquor,’ but of the capitalistic system of production for profit, they- should have it too.
The- referendum enables the. people, after their elected representatives have flamed a Bill, to signify whether they are in favour of it or not, and the right of recall gives the people the necessary control of the delegates who are their political representatives. With the inauguration of a real political Democracy, the representatives of the people would not be here, as I am this afternoon, endeavouring to propagate these views. They would not be here as members of different parties, but the people . would initiate the legislation and pass it after we had put it in a form that they could vote on. We should also be electing the Government from both sides of the House. It would be chosen by the whole of the political representatives of the people, and would be truly national. While the advocates of political Democracy cannot deny that position, I hold that they must go further, because political Democracy is no longer adequate to ‘the economic development of the times. ‘ We must have industrial Democracy. We must introduce Democracy into the workshop, the factory, and the field, as well as into our political Constitutions. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) said, when the war is over, the workers will no longer be content to go on as they have hitherto. The honorable member says that they will demand partnership. I say they will demand the lot. The honorable member also remarked -
The honorable member for Capricornia, frequently talks about our Federal Constitution, and exclaims, “ For heaven’s sake, do not let the bottom fall out of it.” May I remind him that America, as well as Australia, has a Constitution - a Constitution under which there is so much freedom in normal times that one would almost imagine that every man is a law unto himself.
Many of the States of America have the initiative and the right of recall.
– Have they knocked out the capitalistic system there?
– I shall tell the honorable member what political Democracy means. I have here a publication called King Goal, by Upton Sinclair, an American novelist. At the end of the book is” an appendix containing an account of a .decision by the Supreme Court of the State of California on a case arising out of the last election that took place in Colorado. It is as follows: -
In the elections of November, 1914, in Huerfano County, Colorado, J. B. Farr, Republican candidate for re-election as sheriff, a person known throughout the coal country as “ the King of Huerfano County,” was returned as elected by a majority of 329 votes. His rival, the Democratic candidate, contested the election, alleging “ malconduct, fraud and corruption.” The District Court found in Farr’s favour, aud the case was appealed on error to the Supreme Court of the States. On 23rd June, 1916, after Farr had served nearly the whole of his term of office, the Supreme Court handed down a decision which unseated him and the entire. ticket elected with him, finding in favour of the opposition ticket in all cases and upon all grounds charged.
I shall now show, by means of that Supreme Court -decision in “ the land of the free and the home of the brave,” which is engaged now in helping us to make the world safe for Democracy, how much real Democracy existed in Colorado in 19.14 :-
The Court decision first gives an outline ofthe case, using, for the most part, the statements of the counsel for the defendant, Farr; so that for practical purposes the following may be taken as the coal companies’ own account of their domain: “Bound the shaft of each mine are clustered the tipple, the mine office, the shops, sheds, and outbuildings; and huddled close by,- within a stone’s throw, cot- tages of the miners built on the land of, and owned by the mining company. All the dwellers in the camp are employees of the mine. There is no other ‘industry. This is Hie camp.’ Of the eight ‘ closed camps ‘ it appears that practically the same conditions existed in’ all of them, and those conditions were in general that members of the United Mine Workers of America, their organizers, or agitators, were prevented from coming into the camps so far as it was possible to keep them out, and to this end guards were stationed about them. Of the” eight ‘ closed ‘ camps, one of them, ‘Walsen,’ was, and at the time of the trial still was, enclosed by a fence erected at the beginning of the strike in October, 1913.
– I should like the honorable member to endeavour to connect his remarks with the Bill before the Chair. I have listened very carefully to the honorable member’s speech, and have tried in vain to see what the matter he is referring to has to do with the Bill.
– The Bill proposes to alter the electoral system of this country by introducing certain features which are capable of giving rise to corrupt practices. I am quoting a case to show how corrupt practices occurred in one of the American States where a similar electoral system prevails.
– If the honorable member will connect his references with the Bill before the House, he will be in order. But so far he has not attempted to do so.
– The quotation continues - “ Rouse and Cameron were partly, but never entirely, enclosed by fences. It is admitted that all persons entering these Camps and precincts were required by the company to have passes, and it is contended that this was an industrial necessity.’
The Court then goes on as follows: - “The Federal troops entered the district in May of 1014, and the testimony is in agreement that no serious acts of violence”” occurred thereafter, and that order was preserved up to and subsequent to the election, and to the time of this trial. “ It was under this condition that in July, 1014, the Board of County Commissioners changed certain of the election precincts so as te constitute each of such Camps an election precinct, and; with one . exception, where a few ranches wore included, these precincts were made to conform to the fences and lines around each Camp, protected by fences in some instances, and with armed guards in all cases. Thus each election precinct, by this unparalleled act of the Commissioners, was placed exclusively within and upon the private grounds, and under the private control, of a coal corporation, which autocratically declared whoshould, and who should not, ‘ enter upon the territory of this political entity of the State,, so purposely bounded by the County Commissioners.
– The honorable member does not seriously argue that this is possible in Australia 1
– Anything is possible in a country dominated by the wealthy profiteering interests. “ With but one exception, all the lands and’ buildings within each of these election precincts as so created, were owned or controlled by the coal corporation; every person resident within such precincts was an employee of these private corporations or their allied companies, with the single exception; every judge, clerk, or officer of election, with the exception of a saloon-keeper, and partner of- Farr, was an employee of the coal company. ““The polling places were upon the grounds and in the buildings of these companies.
In certain parts of Australia polling booths are erected on land controlled by agricultural and pastoral interests. “ The registration lists were kept within the private offices or buildings of such companies, and used and treated as their private property. “Thus were the public election districts and the public election machinery turned over to the “absolute domination and imperial control of private coal corporations, and used by them as absolutely and privately as were their mines, to and for their own private purposes, and upon which public territory no man might enter for either public or private purpose, save and except by the express permission of these’ private corporations. “This right to determine who should enter such so-called election, precincts appears, from the record, to have been exercised as against all classes; merchants, tradesmen, or what not, and whether the business of such person was public or private. Indeed, it appears that in one instance the Governor and AdjutantGeneral of the State, while on official business, were denied admission to one of these closed Camps. And that on the day of election, the Democratic watchers and challengers for Walsen Mine precinct, one of which was Neelley, the Democratic candidate for sheriff, were forced to seek and secure a detail of Federal soldiers to escort them into the precinct and to the polls, and that such soldiers remained as such guard during the day and a part of the night.
-I ask the honorable member not to proceed too far on these lines. He has not yet touched upon a - single principle, in the Bill. Although what he is reading may be of great interest, as illustrating the prevalence of corrupt practices in other countries to which our Electoral Act does not apply, the incidents related are in . no- way associated with this Bill or the Act which this Bill proposes to amend, and I have been waiting in vain for the honorable member to connect his remarks with the question before the House.
– I thought that it was obvious that my contention- is that even if a system of political Democracy were established in this country by the adoption of the initiative, the referendum, and the right of recall, finality would not have been achieved so far as I am concerned, because the interests of those whom I claim to represent would’ not have been protected; that what we really require is industrial Democracy. I am endeavouring to point out that in a country whose political system is on all fours with ours, and in many of the States goes beyond it, because the referendum and the right of recall are known there, wealthy and corrupt combinations have nullified it. -
– The honorable member’s remarks might be in order in discussing some other questions that might come before the House; but they are not in order on the motion for the second reading of this amending Electoral Bill.
– I am using the opportunity to deal with the principles involved in electoral legislation.
– The honorable member, to put himself in order, must connect his remarks with the specific subject of the Bill.
Mr.- CONSIDINE.- T am showing what occurred in another country whose political institutions aTe similar to our own, and I am pointing out the need for preventing similar corrupt practices in Australia. If you deem such remarks to be unconnected with, the Bill, and, therefore, out of order, I must bow to your ruling, but I do not see the justice of it.
-The intention of the honorable member may have been to connect his remarks with the Bill, but he has hardly done so much as refer to the- Bill during the whole course of his speech.
– I have attacked the system of electoral representation provided for in the Bill. The measure will be useless if it does not provide for a system at least approximating to political Democracy. I have pointed out the lines that should be followed to obtain political Democracy, hut I have contended that even if we had a political Democracy other measures would still be needed to prevent it from resolving itself into a plutocracy. If I am in order I shall proceed with my quotation - “ But if there were any doubt concerning the conditions of the closed camps and precincts, and the exclusion of representatives of the Democratic party from discussing the issues of the campaign within the precincts comprising the closed camps, it is entirely removed by the testimony of the witness Weitzel, for contestee (Farr). He testified that he was a resident of Pueblo, and was manager of the Colorado Fuel_ and Iron Company; that Rouse, Lester, Ideal, Cameron, Walsen, Pictou, and McNally are camps under his jurisdiction; that he had general charge of the camps, and that there waa no company official in Colorado superior to him, in this respect, except the President; that the superintendent and other employees arc. under his supervision; that the Federal troops came about the 1st of May, 1914, and continued until January, 1915. That in all those camps he tried to keep out the people who were antagonistic to the company’s interests; that it was private property, and so treated by his company; that through him the company and its officials assumed to exercise authority as to who might or who might not enter; that if persons could assure or satisfy the man at the gate, or the superintendent that they were not connected with the United Mine workers, or in their employ as agitators, they were let into the camp.”
-I must ask the honorable member not to continue his reading. Were I to permit the debate to proceed on the lines which he is following, all sorts of extraneous subjects might be introduced, under the plea that they were in some remote degree connected with some principle in the Bill, or with some omission from the measure. Such a discussion would be foreign to the purposes of this Bill.’
-If you rule that I am not in order, I shall not read any further, but shall content myself with saying that the conditions which have prevailed in America are incipient here. As this country develops industrially, the economic causes which have produced what is taking place in America will operate here, with like results. These possibilities may be more deftly concealed here than elsewhere, but last night the honorable member’ for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) gave the name of a person who, in an official capacity at a polling booth, had endeavoured to influence his vote and the votes of his companions. He did so by reason of the fact that he occupied certain territory.
– - There is no record of anything of the kind having occurred.
– I accept the statement made by the honorable member for Darling that he complained to the electoral authorities, but secured no redress.
– There is no record of such a complaint.
– I have dealt withtho Bill from the stand-point of the electoral system of Australia generally, since it is impossible, except in Committee, to consider in detail its provisions. As to the objections one might entertain in respect of the measure, I may say at once that I am opposed to the whole system of political representation in Australia to-day. It is an outworn system - a relic of economic conditions that do not prevail to-day. Political Democracy in this and every country is a huge farce. There is, in fact, no such thing as political Democracy in existence.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Since I regard this Bill as primarily one for discussion in Committee, I shall not at this stage debate it at any length. I should like, in the first place, to congratulate “ the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) upon his lucid explanation of its provisions, and also upon the character of the Bill itself. The two outstanding features of the measure are the provisions relating to preferential voting in respect of elections for the House of Representatives and for the restoration of the postal vote. These amendments of the law mark an advance in the right direction. Preferential voting has been part of the policy of our party for the last five years. When, we went to the country in 1913 it was one of the leading planks in our platform, and I am glad that the Government are now about to give effect to the principle. There are, however, certain disappointments associated with the Bill. I regret that the Minister, in introducing it, was not able to announce that he had arranged with the various State Governments for a uniform roll for State and Federal elections, since such a reform would mean a considerably reduced electoral expenditure; and I regret, also, that he was unable to announce that an . agreement had been arrived at for a uniform system of voting in substitution of the dual and confusing systems now operating in the State and Federal spheres. As to the provision - for the restoration of the postal vote, I think that the limit of 15 miles might well have been reduced by the Minister. That, however, is one of the questions with which we shall be able to deal more effectively in Committee.
Many honorable members, and a large section of the public, will be disappointed to find that the preferential- voting system is to apply only to elections for the House of Representatives. I find it difficult to understand why the Government, which is responsible to the country for the introduction of electoral reform, should have brought in such a. partial system in this regard. The Bill should have provided for the application of preferential voting or some other reformed system of voting to elections for the Senate. I agree with those who have stated that if, at the next general elections, we have running side by side preferential voting for the House of Representatives and the present system in respect of elections for the Senate, great confusion will, in all probability, result. It i3 not at all difficult to understand why many people who are called upon to exercise their electoral privileges on comparatively rare occasions should become confused when they enter the polling booths to record their votes. It is the duty of this Parliament to simplify, instead of to further confuse, the procedure. I am not only disappointed at the failure of the Government to provide in this Bill for the application” of preferential voting to elections for the Senate, hut I regret that provision has not been made for a further reform in the direction of the subdivision of the States into’ electoral divisions for the Senate’ instead of each State being polled as a. whole. One of the greatest curses in Australia at the present time is the centralization that is going on in every State. In Victoria we have probably the most shocking example of this, since 50 per cent, of our population is to be found within the metropolitan area. Under the block-vote system, the swing of the electoral pendulum throws the electoral power into , our large centres of population. The large cities throughout Australia dominate the Senate vote, and under the ticket system overwhelming majorities are recorded for one particular party in all our big centres of population.
The present Senate electoral system has been spoken of in this House as being peculiarly one for the preservation of State rights. It has been said again and again that the block-vote system affords the only means by which the rights of the States, as within the Federal sphere, can be preserved. That, however, is an entirely erroneous view. Those who have read the debates that took place when this question was under discussion in the Federal Conventions, will know that provision is made in the Constitution to enable this Parliament to determine what electoral system shall be applied to Senate, elections and to decide whether in respect of the Senate each State should be polled as one division or subdivided into electorates. Section 7 of the Constitution provides that -
The Senate shall be composed of senators foi each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, “ as one electorate. . . .
When that clause in. the draft Constitution Bill was before the Convention, a very considerable debate took place on the question as to whether each State should be polled as one electorate, or should be subdivided into electoral divisions. The late Lord Forrest suggested an amendment which would have left to the State Parliaments the right to subdivide the -States into electorates for the election of senators, and in the debate which followed that proposal such distinguished men as the late Lord Forres;, Sir George Reid and Sir William Lyne, as well as other prominent statesmen, put .forward the view that the interests as well as the manhood of the various States could be protected only by subdividing the States into electoral divisions for the Senate. While the matter was under the consideration of the Convention, five of the six State Parliaments forwarded requisitions urging that the provision for the polling of each State as one constituency for the Senate should be excised from the Bill, and that the State Parliaments should be free to determine whether each State should be polled as one division or as several. A long debate followed, and the provision to give the Parliament the right to determine whether the one electorate should continue was expressly inserted to enable the alteration to be made if it was believed to be justified by experience. The time has now arrived when we should give effect to that power embodied in the Constitution, and spread the representation as far as possible, so that the people in the remoter parts may have an opportunity of electing their senators. Would anybody suggest that we should have recourse to the block system of voting for the House of Representatives ?
Since the beginning of Federation, it has been observed that the man who is best known, or is put on the ticket of some powerful organization or newspaper, has the best chance -of being returned as a senator; and, as a matter of fact, the great bulk of the electors vote for men without ever having seen them. It is impossible for a candidate to make himself sufficiently known all over a State so as to avoid a blind vote of the kind I have indicated.
– If the ticket did not operate before the election, it would operate when Parliament met.
– - Unfortunately, a system of ticket politics has grown up in
Australia, perhaps more completely than elsewhere,’ and that is because of the caucus methods adopted. This has not only operated to ‘the extent of developing the. ticket for the election of members, but also to the extent of holding elected members in the grip of the outside organisations. This, as we know, has reduced this Parliament to such a condition that it is the only Parliament in the whole of the Allied countries that was unable to do its duty when the war broke out.
– We imported the ticket system from England.
– But it developed ‘ here to such an. extent that it paralyzed and destroyed the responsibility and independence of this Parliament when its power was most needed to perform its highest duty of preserving the safety ofthe nation when the war broke out,, and during its continuance. No greater* calamity could have befallen a Democracy.
We cannot have a prosperous population in Australia unless we develop our various interests to the “ utmost. There cannot be big manufacturing industries in the cities without great land settlement and the production of raw materials in the country districts. We must recognise that we are a great territory with a few people, and with a greater proportion of the population in the cities than is to be found in any other country in the world. It should be the duty of this House to so distribute electorates as to enable the residents, even in the remoter parts, to speak adequately in this Parliament. So far we have not aimed at that object, but have only got as far as one vote one value. I know that that is a very pretty cry, something like that of land nationalization- theoretically perfect, but impracticable when put to the real test.
I know that there are several . electorates in Australia larger than mine, but the Wimmera- covers nearly a fourth^ of Victoria ; and it is not so easy to re-‘ present 30,000 or 35,000 people in such an electorate as it is for a man to represent a similar number in a city electorate, which embraces only a few miles. I do not say that we should alter our bedrock system of the franchise. I believe in the universal franchise, because then -the people, through the ballot-box, become the rulers of Parliament, and if Parliament is not up to their ideal, the responsibility is theirs.
– What is the good of a universal franchise if you. alter the value of the votes?
– We alter the value of the votes in order that we may develop certain interests in connexion with the representation. To put the matter another way, in Victoria, as an illustration, we have over and over again found that the overwhelming majority cast’ in the metropolitan areas has been more than sufficient to neutralize a majority for certain candidates in country districts : and ‘ Victoria? in this, respect, is only typical of other States. It has always been recognised that under our electoral system there must be a preponderance of voting power in the big cities as against the country districts. It is the only way we can have anything like decent representation in this House. States are cut up into electorates so that some attention may be given by specialized representation to various interests in the country districts, which would not be possible if the block vote were applied to elections for this House.
The present system of elections for the Senate cannot continue unless we ‘are prepared to have a Chamber representing, not the States interests, but simply the biggest organization that puts forward tickets, and can command overwhelming majorities in the metropolitan area. The Senate would then be representative, not of the States, but of the capital cities and industrial centres only.
I shall not touch on the question of postal voting introduced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), for that can be discussed when’ the Bill is in Committee.
The subdivision of each of the States into three electorates would . enable the representative system to be applied to the elections for the Senate just as it is to this House.
– Except when there was a double dissolution.
– That is so.
– That would obviate the delay that takes place in the count at the present time.
– I would not object to a system of preferential voting at ordinary elections by subdividing each State into three electorates, or as the honorable member for Wilmot has suggested, wo might have proportional representation in the case of a double dissolution. We could have, under ordinary conditions, preferential voting for both Chambers. I do hope that the country members will not lose this opportunity, which may be the only one they may have for many years, to make some amendment of the system of electing senators. The rapid trend of population is from the country districts into the .towns and cities, and if Parliament does not take a hand and do all that is possible to stem that tide, and encourage the country interests, we shall continue to be confronted’ with this serious problem - the great bulk of our population still further concentrated in the large cities, and a great reaction in respect of production and the general progress of the Commonwealth.
.- It has been my custom at all times to welcome any Bill which will permit me, as a member of the House, to amend any law in the direction of advancing Democracy and the welfare of the people. At first I felt inclined to say that this Bill should ‘not have been introduced at this time for the reason that over a quarter of a million of the bravest of our soldiers are away, and therefore will not be able to bring their pressure to bear on the improvement of the measure. Another objection oto ‘the introduction of the Bill now is that more important measures should be brought before the House. Foremost amongst them is the longdelayed amendment of the ‘ Tariff. I would like to see also a special measure for the. introduction of my old friend the initiative and referendum, and its later and highest political development, the recall. I suppose I shall not be able to get my wish on that matter, although I think that if a referendum of the people were taken the people would compel Parliament to deal first of all with the Tariff, and then with the referendum and initiative and the recall.
To any honorable member who would like to read in brief form the scope of the present Bill, I commend the excellent epitome published in the Labour Call. For instance, the first four paragraphs read -
I do miss from this measure a clause which would permit the party ticket being operated on polling day. What I mean is that any one on entering a booth to exercise the franchise should have the right to. say, “I will vote for the National party, the Labour ‘party, the Independent party, the Protectionist party, or the Soldiers party.” If that were done, the Returning Officer, with one, two, or three scrutineers, would see that the elector’s intention was carried out completely, and would thus prevent mistakes by voters who are not quite au fait with the intricacies of the electoral system.
– That would not be a secret ballot.
– The honorable member is wrong. If the elector were to tell the Returning Officer that he wished to support a certain party, his vote would ‘be just as secret as is the vote of a blind person,. who goes to the polling booth and tells the duly appointed officer how he or she desires to vote. The party ticket is not new to Australia. Honorable members will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) had the. right in connexion with the last Federal election and the conscription referenda, to indicate a party ticket for the soldiers at the Front. Cognisance was taken of the fact that the soldiers would -not be familiar with the individual names of many candidates; therefore the party ticket was introduced and operated under a regulation of the War Precau-tions Act. I hope to see the time when the suggestion I am making will be embodied in an amending Electoral Bill, and if an opportunity should occur in Committee, and I am promised reasonable support, I shall move such an amendment in this Bill.
Another amendment I should like to see made is that all persons who are under the Australian flag should have the full privilege of citizenship and the right to vote. In the farflung portions of the Commonwealth, such as Papua, the Northern Territory, the Federal Territory, and Lord Howe Island, Australian citizens should have the right to vote, and it is not proper that this Commonwealth, of which we boast as the freest and greatest Democracy in the world, should refuse some of its citizens the franchise.
– There is no doubt that that amendment will be made in time.
– Having many years on my shoulders, I wish to see that extension take place in my lifetime, and I hope that in Committee, or perhaps when the Bill reaches another place, an amendment will be proposed to give those citizens a vote. It could be done very simply. Papua could be added to a Queensland constituency. I mention that State because all ships going from Australia to Papua make their last call at a Queensland port. The Northern Territory could be, as it was when under South Australian control, a portion of the constituency of Grey. I hope the honorable member for Grey 1 (Mr. Poynton) will not think that I have any personal animus against him in wishing to add to his already large electorate. The Federal Territory could easily be attached to one of the New South Wales electorates, and Lord Howe Island is already attached to the electorate of East Sydney.
The sections providing for voting in absence are justly retained, with amend- ments which should make them more useful. Seeing that 250,000 persons make use of the provision, it must appeal to every- honorable member that we should make it more easily availed of.
It has been estimated that 77,000 persons will be benefited by the restoration of the postal vote. As one who has suffered more from that form of voting than possibly any other person in the world, I may be permitted- to say a few words in regard to it. In the small subdivision bounded by Spring-street, Elizabethstreet, Bourke-street, and Victoria-street, in the Melbourne electorate, in the campaign in which I opposed the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn - peace to him, and to every one who goes through the shadows - more postal votes were polled than were recorded in the whole of the State of Western Australia at two elections, or in the whole of the State of Queensland in one election. At least £5,000 was spent upon that election by my opponent, and it’ is not to be wondered at that every postal vote was known to the men who conducted his campaign. This is proved by the fact that two of them had their passages paid to South Africa when- they thought that I was on their trail. Bribery and corruption of the vilest kind were resorted to. Of the two secretaries I had to fight, one had served a term of imprisonment, and the other should have been imprisoned for his natural life. I refer to Carey, who robbed a building society of £16,000, and left the State. He was so audacious in his manipulations that I said to my committee, when they were securing sworn declarations, “ I want to catch that man above all others.”
Three or four years afterwards Carey asked me if I would care to go and see how the card system was manipulated during that election. He said, “As an instance of how complete it was, I can tell you that we polled the vote of a man who had changed his residence on twentyfour occasions within six months. So that you will see there was some value in it.” I accompanied him, and I saw that all he had told me was true. Later on, he desired to join the Labour party, and, in fact, took steps to do so. He astonished me inCollins-street one dayby stopping me, and saying, ““Well, Dr. Maloney, I have joined your party.” Ireplied, “Have you?” He said, “I have given your name and that of Mr. Prendergast as my references.” I looked at him, and said, “ Let us be straight, right here. If they ask me, I will say that I consider you to be one of the biggest scoundrels I have ever met, and that I tried my level best to pin you. If I could have got one solitary sworn declaration against you, I would have had you in Court.” He said, “ That may be straight, but it israther awkward for me.” Ultimately he robbed the building society of £16,000, and went away. The two election secretaries, Frost and Carey, were the men I was up against, and honorable members will not be surprised at being told that at least £5,000 was spent in order to secure that election for my opponent, and that every vote received by post at that election was known to those who obtained them. There are two gentlemen in Melbourne to-day who took a hand in political life at that time, and they have assured me that they knew in whose favour every person voting by post on that occasion recorded his vote. It was quite possible, under the loose and lax system then in vogue;but I am glad to say that the Minister in charge of this Bill (Mr. Glynn) is providing greater safeguards. The Labour party has never objected to a postal-voting system properly secured by statutory rules and regulations, because it naturally recognises, even on the score of tactics, that more people belonging to the working classes suffer from illness or sickness than do those who may be said to be better off. Therefore, I am quite willing, as a member of the Electoral Commission, to give the system a fair trial, and to judge by results.
I do not think that the Chief Electoral Officer is given sufficient power, such, for instance, as the power Parliament has bestowed upon the Auditor-General or the Commissioner of Taxation. Honorable members will remember how the latter turned down the suggestion I made for the preparation of the return showing the increased profits derived by incometax payers giving numbers instead of names, in order to secure secrecy. Why should we not give the same power of independent action to the officer who is in control of the most important factor appertaining to citizenship, namely, the right to vote?
The Labour party has for many years past adopted the system of preferential voting. The system was adopted in the Victorian State House. The vote of a gentleman representing East Melbourne, the most Conservative constituency in the State, was probably the means of having the preferential system of voting adopted for State elections; but since then that gentleman has not occupied a seat in the State Legislature. He mayregret having lost his seat ; but I hope that his conscience will give him sufficient consolation in that he did his duty, and endeavoured to carry out what he thought was right.
If honorable members will care to look at the report of the Electoral Commission, they will find that we suggested that, before a person could be summoned under the compulsory sections of the Act, twenty-one days’ notice should be given to him to enable him to comply with the Act, and that if, on the expiry of that period, he was not then enrolled, proceedings should be taken. -
– We could not well give a personal notice.
– Notice could be given by post-card or letter to the last known postal address.
– Is the honorable member in favour of compulsory voting?
– Yes, absolutely. One of the standing questions which, during the proceedings of the Electoral Commission, I put to all witnesses was, “ Given compulsory enrolment as the law of the land, do you not think that compulsory voting should follow as a necessary corollary?” The most intelligent witnesses who came before the Commission agreed that where compulsory enrolment was the law of the land, compulsory voting should follow.
– Would the honorable member penalize persons for not voting?
– I believe that any person who will not exercise his right of citizenship, if not prevented from doing so by illness, is deserving of some punishment. On the subject of compulsory voting, it will be found, at page 10 of the Electoral Commission’s report, that recommendation 31 reads as follows : -
Compulsory voting. - Contingent upon adequate provision being made tor the exercise of postal voting, we recommend compulsory voting as a natural corollary of compulsory enrolment.
That recommendation was carried unanimously by the members of the Commission. I intend, when we get into Committee on this Bill, to submit a clause to give effect to that recommendation, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to agree to it.
There was another recommendation of the Electoral Commission which, I am sorry to say, only two members of it were bra-ve enough to sign. It had reference to abolishing the practice of using cabs, motor cars, and other conveyances fo take people to the poll. This is the minority recommendation on that, subject -
We further report that there appears to be a growing practice of conveying electors to the poll. This has caused considerable congestion in polling booths, and much more work for certain officials, and may grow into a corrupt practice. Means should be adopted to prevent the engaging of vehicles by candidates, organizations, or other persons for this purpose. But the right of persons using their own vehicles for the conveyance of themselves and their families to the poll should not be interfered with.
That is signed by H. Sinclair and W. Maloney. Honorable members are aware that, other things- being equal, the man who commands most money, and who, through his friends or otherwise, is able to secure the greater number of conveyances to carry voters to the poll, will, as a rule, poll most votes.
– I do not know that he will. Very often his conveyances carry voters for his opponents.
– I do not think that any man can blame voters for taking advantage of conveyances provided by their political opponents’. I can inform hon- orable members that in the by-election which I fought after the High Court had declared the previous election null and void, I could not obtain a single motor car in the whole of Melbourne and its suburbs. They had all been ear-marked and paid for by my opponent’s friends.
– The same thing happened in Sydney at the last elections, when a motor car could not be hired a week before the polling day.
– Whilst, at a general election, it would not be surprising to find all motor cars engaged, that is not on all fours with my case. The by-election to which I refer was the only election held in Australia at that time, and there was not a single motor car available to me on that occasion. If many of my supporters at that time travelled in the vehicles provided by my opponent, I cannot conscientiously blame them very much for having done so. I desire that this practice of using conveyances to carry voters to the poll shall be abolished, though I agree that any one who has a conveyance of his own. should have the right to use it to go to the poll. Just as the Switzers, in their many cantons, travel over their mountains to record their votes, because they look upon the exercise of the vote as something holy, so I desire that our Australian people shall regard it as a sacred duty to record their votes when opportunity offers. What could be a more sacred duty than the recording of a vote which may have the. effect of making or marring the well-being of the community.
I think I have touched upon the principal features of the Bill, and when we get into Committee I shall seek to amend it, as, from my point of view, I think it ought to be amended. In order that I may do so, I submit the following: -
That, contingent upon the second reading being carried, I give notice that I will move that it be an instruction to the Committee to provide in the Electoral Bill such clauses aa will provide for the initiative and referendum.
Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any Act, when 75,000 Australian voters demand the amendment or the enactment of any law by an authenticated petition, the question shall be submitted to a vote of the Australian people voting “ Yes “ or “ No,” and, if a majority of the- Australian citizens, who vote. pronounce in the affirmative, it shall be an instruction to the Commonwealth Government of the day to immediately bring in an Act to carry into law the wishes of the Australian citizens.
No Democrat can object to such a provision as that. If I were asked what words should be blazoned on the temple of Democracy, erected on the sure foundation of humanity, I should say that they should be the three words - “ Initiative, Referendum, Recall.” We have recognised them, to a certain extent, in our Constitution by enabling this Parliament to permit our creators - the citizens of the Commonwealth - to vote on certain’ occasions that we may be informed as to what they desire. I think that this right of the creators of this Parliament should be continued throughout its existence, and provision should be made to enable the majority of the people to say from time to time, if they think necessary, whether a certain law should be amended or a new law introduced. No Democrat can conscientiously take exception to such a provision. Prom the earliest times in the history of the Mother of Parliaments in the Old Land every candidate whoever stood on the hustings seeking the votes of those who possessed the franchise; claimed that he considered it the highest honour to be a servant of the people. If that is still the feeling of those who aspire to represent the people in Parliament, it can be given effect here by providing for the initiative, referendum, and recall. I believe that these magic words will have as great an effect in this country, in the advance of Democracy, as had the three words, “Liberty, Equality, Frater nity “ in the century that has passed.
I am reminded of an excellent work, published by the late David Syme, dealing with representative government in England, and which, I think, has brought to him far greater fame than any other of his publications. On this question of the excessive election costs in the United Kingdom, I took out some figures concerning my own election expenses about eight years ago, and I found that, on the basis of United Kingdom expenses, my election would have cost £1,500 at least. From this it will be seen that had I been in England I would have been called upon to find £750, not a penny of which would have come- back to me. This expense is incurred in the preparation of polling booths, payment of officers, and the incidental expenditure. Under our franchise all that is required of any candidate for Parliament is a deposit of £25, and the signatures of halfadozen electors of the. Commonwealth. After the election this £25 will be returned to the candidate unless, of course, he fails to secure one-fifth of the votes recorded for the lowest successful candidate. The late James Munro, at one time Premier of Victoria, informed me that he had been offered a seat in England, but that it would have cost him between £4,000 and £5,000; and when the English members of Parliament visited Australia some years ago I asked Mr. William Crooks if he could tell the Labour members of our Parliament, who were then entertaining him at lunch, what his election expenses were Every man nearly fell off his chair when he said his .last election cost him £1,150. The average Labour seat in England” costs the unions or the candidate anything from £1,000 to £1,300.
This principle of the referendum and initiative has received the indorsement of Lord Salisbury, and other members of the Conservative party, as well as the late Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, and’ its adoption will enable a man to keep his seat so long as he enjoys the confidence of a majority of his electors. The late David Syme, referring to the bribery and corruption in England, said that he was looking forward to the time when a constituency would have the same right over its representatives as the King has over his Ministers, namely, the right of dismissal. But honorable members need not fear that I am trying to terrorize them when I speak of the recall, for I can assure them that it would not only save the country heavy expenditure, as it would not be necessary to have an election in the same sense as it is understood at present, but so long, as a member carried out his platform undertakings and kept his pledges, thus assuring his constituents that he was the right man for the POSt- tion, there would he no need for him to face-the electors. If there is one quality pertaining to the people, speaking of the common folk, it is a sense of justice, and 1 remember that the ‘ late Abraham Lincoln said of them, “ God must have loved the common people because he made so many of them.” After twenty-eight and a half years of parliamentary experience I can say that I would not give up the confidence which the people, especially the old men and the old women, have reposed in me, for the greatest gift from the hands of any Emperor.
I would like to repeat, so that members may be under no misapprehension, that with the referendum, initiative, and recall the law of the land, those who hold the same views as I do _ in reference to a Protectionist policy would only have to obtain a certified petition from, say, 50,000 of the electors, together with a statutory declaration that the signatures were genuine, and lodge it with the Clerk of the House, to insist on this question being put to the vote of the people. Under this system the differences at present existing between Ministers and members would all be swept away. If honorable members will go through the figures of an ordinary election they will find that a fair average of voters is from 60 to 63 per cent. Therefore one-half of that number, or, say, 30 per cent., would be a fair percentage to fix in a demand for the recall. Under this system members would mind their p’s and q’s more than they do at present. If any honorable member will examine the figures relating to absentees from this House it will be found that, putting all the sittings together, and dividing them by the number of sessions, certain members have been absent, practically, for a good many years. It follows that when the country became used to the benefits of these three great reforms, general elections would be swept away. I look forward to the time when members will sit as long as they satisfy their creators, the voters who put them iwto Parliament. Under this system a member could look forward to security of tenure, knowing that, so long as he tried to carry out his pledges, he would have the strong moral and material support of his constituents outside.
– Provided that somebody did not want his seat.
– Of course, that risk always exists.
– .What about preselection?
– If a man belongs to a party he should be loyal to it, or get out”. If the time ever comes for me to get out, they will have to kick me out, because I will not willingly desert men who’ have been loyal to me, and to whom I have tried always to be loyal ; but if I have to go, I shall not squeal unless I am kicked specially hard. Honorable members will see that the system I advocate promises great advantages in the future. I cannot see why Parliament should not continue in session the whole year round. The system I advocate would eliminate burning questions. Switzerland has far greater difficulties than we have, because the difficulty caused by differences of language is always f«r greater than that caused by wide spaces of territory; yet the Swiss Parliament manages to get expeditiously through its business. The referendum and initiative remove all burning questions from the noor of the House. The Swiss Parliament meets at 8 o’clock in the morning in summer, and the roll is called. Any member absent is fined. Members have to keep a quorum without it being necessary to call the attention of the Speaker or Chairman to the absence of it. The names of members present are recorded at every division, and the absent members are fined. The House adjourns at 1 o’clock, meets again at 2 o’clock, and adjourns at 4 o’clock. In the winter the only difference is that the sittings begin at 9 o’clock in. the morning. They have two sessions of three weeks each. They conduct their business in much the same way as the directorate of a financial institution; not, as we do, with a “second board of directors to review what the first board has agreed to. I hope honorable members will agree that, if it is possible to assert the principle in this Bill, it is our duty to do so.
If honorable members need any further education in the matter, I refer them to the Age newspaper, which has done more to make the initiative, referendum, and recall known throughout Australia than has any other publication. Last week the Age published a magnificent article, concluding with the following words : -
In the initiative, referendum, and recall, which arc part of the advanced systems of government in Switzerland and the United States of America, are devices of Democracy which offer the true solution of public apathy in Australia. They are devices that enhance the value of the vote. If voting is once made worth while there will be no need to make it compulsory.
All except the last sentence meets with my full approval.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Laird Smith) adjourned.
Naval Administration : Royal Commission’s Report - Distribution of “Hansard” - Increase in Postage Rates.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I regret that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has not seen fit to answer
Straightforwardly a straight question. I asked him the other day, without notice, whether he could tell me the name of the Minister for the Navy who, according to the report of the Royal Commission on Navy administration, had incurred expenditure either without reference to, or in opposition to, the Naval Board. I asked also if that Minister was still a member of the War Cabinet, and, if so, whether the Ministry proposed to dismiss him from office. The Acting Prime Minister said it was most unfair of me to ask such a question. What was there unfair about it? He said, “I have glanced through the report in the time available to me, but I cannot say to which of the ‘many Ministers who have had charge of the Department the statement applies.” I venture to say that this report is one of the most damning indictments ever presented to Parliament, yet the Acting Prime Minister would have us believe that he does not know the name of the Minister referred to in it.
– And Cabinet has dealt with the report.
– That is so. When the Acting Prime Minister was given notice of the question, and had time to think it over, he said -
I have re-read the paragraph referred to by the honorable member. The section from which the honorable member has extracted the statement in question affords me no intimation as to who the Minister was to whom attention is directed. Probably a minute examination of the evidence would make this clear. However, all the Ministers who have ever been in control of the Navy Department are at present included in the National War Ministry.
Surely the Acting Prime Minister is doing a wrong to some of his colleagues Is he prepared to allow a suspicion to rest upon these Ministers?
– Or upon the whole of them.
– Or upon the whole of them.Is he prepared to allow suspicion to rest upon the Hon. Sir Joseph Cook, the Hon. G. F. Pearce, the Hon. E. D. Millen, the Hon. J. A. Jensen, and the Hon. A. Poynton? The Commission which investigated the administration of the Navy and Defence Departments directed attention to the fact that a Minister had incurred expenditure without reference to, or in spite of, the Naval Board, “with unsatisfactory and costly results to the Commonwealth.” Who is the Minister who ignored the Naval Board? The reply given by the Acting Prime Minister constitutes a reflection upon every member of the present Government. Are the five Ministers whom I have named, prepared to allow suspicion to rest upon them in order to shield a guilty colleague? The report of the Royal Commission is not in any way ambiguous’. It says, “ a Minister “ - not Ministers. The members of the Government must be very innocent if they think the public can be gulled into the belief that they do not know who this Minister is. The Acting Prime Minister has stated that a minute examination of the evidence will no doubt disclose the information. I think it would be as well for the. honorable gentleman to hear what I am saying.
– I will tell him.
– Are we to be permitted to have a searching examination of the evidence which the Acting Prime Minister says will disclose the name of this particular Minister ? I regret that the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), who was present the other day when I directed attention to this damaging report, made no attempt to reply to my remarks. Does he wish it to be inferred that he does not know the name of the Minister in question ? Upon page 29 of the Commission’s report, I notice that there is printed the report of a sub-Committee of the Cabinet upon the report of the Commission. To my mind, this is a bad practice which has grown up in the. Commonwealth. A Royal Commission is appointed to inquire into alleged abuses, and before its report has been presented to Parliament, that report is handed over to the very men whose conduct is impugned, and they are permitted to attach to it a reply which goes forth to the public simultaneously with the report itself. This report of the Royal Commission, I repeat, was submitted to a sub-Committee of the Cabinet. Was the Minister for Home and Territories a member of that sub-Committee ?
– -No; but what has that to do with the merits of the report?
– We- want to know whether the Minister whose conduct was impugned by the Royal Commission was a member of .that sub-Committee of the Cabinet ? I would like the Acting Prime Minister, when the’ House re-assembles on Wednesday, to answer mv question.
– The sub-Committee did not go into the matter, but merely dealt with - the recommendations of the Commission. It did not deal specifically with the question mentioned by the honorable member.
– It did. It says in its report -
In support of its contention the Commission states that expenditure has been incurred by a Minister without the concurrence of the Board, with unsatisfactory results to the Common-* wealth. I
The Commission said that the expenditure had been incurred by a Minister without reference to the Naval Board, and “ with costly results to the Commonwealth.” But the sub-Committee of the Cabinet has skimmed over this allegation.
– What is the object of .concealment if there be nothing to hide?
– Exactly. The subcommittee of the Cabinet skims over the allegation by the Royal Commission, and says-;
Before this can be accepted as conclusive proof of the soundness of the change proposed, it would require to be shown that all expenditure incurred with the Board’s approval was sound and warranted.
– It may be that the Minister bought a very expensive motor car.
– If the talk down town is correct the matter is a very much more serious one than would be the purchase of a motor car. The Acting Prime Minister is allowing a suspicion to rest upon every Minister who has had control of the Navy Department when he states that there is nothing to disclose who was the Minister involved, but that all- the Ministers who have been in charge of the Navy Department are included in the War Ministry. And he would have it appear that it is for this reason that he does not take the drastic step of dismissing the Minister in question from office.
– If a Minister were to be dismissed from office for every mistake he made, we should have frequent opportunities of getting into the Cabinet.
– The statements which are being made in Melbourne are of a most serious character, and those which are being circulated in Sydney are of a more serious nature still. We shall not allow the Government to keep this information secret. We shall drag it from them with the assistance of their own supporters, who cannot afford to rest under the present indictment without knowing what are the reasons which compelled the Royal Commission, consisting of Mr. McBeath, Mr. Verco, and Mr. Taylor, to use such strong language in presenting their report to the Government.
– I desire to make a few remarks in connexion with? a statement which you, sir, made to the House about a fortnight ago in regard to curtailing the number of free copies of Hansard that have hitherto bean- circulated weekly. Owing to the fact that the Victorian Parliament has. drastically reduced the number of copies of its Hansard, which were previously issued to State members, a misapprehension has arisen in the minds of many people, who believe that the circulation of our Federal Hansard has been similarly restricted. Persons who would otherwise subscribe to that’ publication aTe labouring under this misapprehension, and some steps ought certainly to be taken by you, sir, and by the President of the Senate, to remove it. The difference between our own Hansard and the Victorian Hansard is this : That while the State Hansard had only twelve paid subscribers, the Federal Hansard has practically 1,000. In some States it is impossible for the people to know what is going on in this Parliament unless they may see copies of the Federal Hansard. Persons who were receiving free copies, but did not desire to retain the privilege of reading the Federal Hansard, were rightly advised by you, sir, and by the President of the Senate, I understand, that if they no longer wished to receive the numbers, they would not be further sent to them - that was, if they so intimated. But there should be no misapprehension in the public mind in regard to the Federal Hansard. It should be clearly intimated that if the public desire to subscribe, or to continue their subscriptions, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so.
We are all familiar with the very brief reports of doings within the Federal Legislature which are published in the Melbourne press. But even those are infinitely more extensive than the telegraphed reports appearing in. the newspapers of some of the other States.
– I think it may be advisable to reiterate what I have already stated in regard to the publication of Hansard. It is to the effect that issues to sub scribers are not interfered with at all, and that the supplies of honorable members’ copies of Hansard are not interfered with, either. All that has been done has been to issue a circular letter to those in receipt of free copies of Hansard - to those persons who are on the free circulation register - asking any who do not particularly wish to have Hansard sent them, if they will intimate to the authorities of this Parliament their concurrence in the discontinuance of their copies. It is only where voluntary acceptance of discontinuance occurs that the issues of Hansard are no longer being sent. For example, I had a notification to-day from the proprietor of a newspaper to the effect that his office was quite willing to forego its free copy of Hansard, because it was able to secure from other sources the information it desired. In that case, the free copy will be discontinued.
.- I wish to add a word or. two regarding the answer given by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to-day to the question by the- honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). It is impossible to regard that answer as being anything less than disingenuous. One would like, if the forms of the House permitted, to designate it, indeed, by a much stronger term. It is clear that if the Acting Prime Minister had desired to give this information relating to public affairs - to the business of a public Department - he could have done so, and thus the public might have been saved the prevarication contained in his lengthy reply. The question asked was, in effect, “ Who is the
Minister referred to in terms of the strongest condemnation by a Royal Commission in respect to a specific matter?” And the Acting Prime Minister delivered an elaborate reply, in the course of which he said -
I have re-read the paragraph referred to by the honorable member. . . . The section from which ho has extracted the statement in the question affords me no indication as to who the Minister was . to whom attention was directed. Probably a minute examination of the evidence would make this clear. However, all the Ministers who have ever been in control of the Navy Department are at present included in the National Government, but I see no reason to pursue the drastic course which the honorable member suggests.
Is there an honorable member on either side of this House who doubts that the Acting Prime Minister knows who the Minister was?
– He does not know.
– Then, if he does not, it was an insult to the intelligence of the House for the Leader of the Government to come here and deliver a reply of that nature, upon a matter as to which he could have obtained information within two minutes.
– He could not have done anything of the sort. The answer is perfectly consistent with the report itself.
– Ordinarily it does not lie with the Government to pass upon itself a vote of censure; but the Government both censures and condemns itself if it alleges that it does not know and cannot find out what is sought in the question at issue. If the matter is so difficult to discover, and is being so hushed up, then the greater is the condemnation that the Government deserves. And I concur with the honorable member for Capricornia that this information will be dragged from the Government, in spite of itself, or the Government will be dragged off the Ministerial benches, and that at no distant date.
– By whom?
– By any and every honorable member who believes in fair and square dealing, and in the publication of vital facts; and there are enough honorable members on that side of the House who have shown an independent spirit to see that the public are protected in matters such as this.
Let me turn to the report of the subcommittee of the Cabinet. The first thing that strikes one in regard to that report is that the Cabinet sub-committee stands for and asserts the principle of Ministerial responsibility. It says,” at the conclusion of paragraph 4= -
No Minister can fairly he expected to Answer to Parliament . regarding the adminis tration of a Department over which he exercised no authority.
While asserting the principle of Ministerial responsibility - in which, by the way, I absolutely believe, and I heartily concur in what the sub-committee ha 3 said - it deliberately withheld the name of the Minister who ought to be responsible to the public. It violated and vitiated the whole principle by keeping secret the name of the person responsible for the misdeeds reported here. The report of the sub-committee further states -
With the removal of Ministerial responsibility, it is difficult to see how Parliament could exercise any control over the Department’s administrative activities.
It is most difficult; but what is the value of Ministerial responsibility if the Minister himself is not responsible to Parliament? What is the value of parliamentary action upon the Minister if we do not know who he is?
It may be that the Minister at the head of the Navy Department to-day, who is controlling one of the most important arms in our defence in this great war, is the person who stands under the scathing condemnation of this independent Commission. But we are not to know, and we are not to be allowed to know, and the Government is ashamed and afraid to ‘let us know. Have the members of the Government themselves so little regard for their personal or public honour that, in order to shield one of their number, they are all willing to remain under the imputation of being, possibly, the person referred to?
In paragraph 9 of the sub-committee’s report it states - and here is where it refers to the condemnation by the Commission -
In support of its contention, the Commission states that expenditure has been incurred by a Minister without the concurrence of the Board, with unsatisfactory results to the Commonwealth.
The’ Commission stated a good deal more than that, as the honorable member -for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) has already pointed out. And then the report of the sub-committee of the Cabinet continues -
Before this can be accepted as conclusive proof of the soundness of the change proposed, it will require to be shown that all expenditure incurred with the Board’s approval was sound and warranted.
A more illogical and absurd statement I have never read in a public document. “Unfortunately,” adds the subcommittee, “ this cannot be shown.” “Will the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) make no reply to the charges in the report ? Will the Government make no reply? Will it make.no attempt to justify itself? I do not assert that the mere finding of a Royal Commission is conclusive against the Government, but it is sufficient to raise a prima facie case worthy of answer by the Government, and quite unworthy of being hushed up by the Government. It is safe to add that, if the Government lacks the courage and the public honesty to let the country know the name of the person referred to, it will have much to answer for ; and that at a very early date.
If is unfortunate that the Acting Prime Minister, who has just entered the chamber, was- not present when this matter was raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). It is a question affecting the honour of the Acting Prime Minister, and of the Government, and it has led me to accuse the honorable gentleman of prevarication with respect to an answer which he gave to-day. He said in reply to the honorable member for Capricornia -
I have re-read the paragraph, referred to by the honorable member, in the Royal Commission’s report on Navy Administration, dated 18th September, 1918. The section from which the honorable gentleman has extracted the statement in the question affords me no indication as to who the Minister was to whom attention is directed. Probably a minute examination of the evidence would make this clear. However, all the Ministers who have ever been in control of the Navy Department are at present included in the National Government, but I see no reason to pursue the drastic course which the honorable member suggests.
– What is wrong with that?
– The honorable member, when he allowed those words to be put into his mouth, must have known what Minister was referred to in the report.
– I shall deal with that statement.
– When the Acting Prime Minister has dealt with that statement, he will have this further statement to deal with. If he does not know what Minister was referred to, he has been sadly lacking in his public duty, and, although he may stand acquitted of the graver charge of prevarication, he is self -accused of not having acquainted himself with a matter on which he should have been, and might have been, informed.
.- It is stated in to-day’s newspapers that the postage tax is to be put into operation next Monday. In my division some of the mails run only once a week, and many persons there have had no opportunity yet of knowing the intention of the Government in this matter. I ask the PostmasterGeneral not to surcharge letters from distant parts of the Commonwealth which do not bear the halfpenny postage tax until sufficient time has elapsed to enable those living in places remote from the Seat of Government to know that the tax has been imposed. I am sure that there is no desire to evade taxation, and where it can be proved to the satisfaction of the Department’s officers that the halfpenny postage tax has not been paid because of the want of information regarding it, no surcharge should be made.
– Such action will be taken as will meet the contingencies of the proclamation concerning this tax, and, so far as practicable, citizens who are not trying to evade the tax will not be penalized.
.- I trust that the Acting Prime Minister will pay more than usual attention to the accusation brought by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) against one of the Ministers.
– I did not hear what the honorable member for Capricornia had to say. An ex-Minister of his standing should surely have let me know that he was going to make this statement. That would have been the usual courtesy.
– When in town during the luncheon hour, a couple of public men spoke to me about the rumours that were in circulation concerning a certain Minister. I said that I did not wish to hear any name mentioned, and I personally declined to father any rumour. My old .friend, Sir Joseph Cook, is now in London, and, of course, could not have been at the meeting of the Cabinet the other day; but, nevertheless, I am anxious that no stigma should attach to him. Rumours, once started, quickly grow, and the Acting Prime Minister will do well to stop the growth of this rumour. The public is entitled to some statement from the Acting Prime Minister other than the evasive answer that he gave this morning.
– It was not an evasive answer. “Mr. Brennan. - A protective answer.
– No; it was not a protective answer.
– It was not an effective answer. The Acting Prime Minister is in a very delicate position. He is a master of the art of answering questions, and at times it is a puzzle to understand the meaning of his replies.
– I decline the honorable member’s flattery. The answer that I gave to-day may not have been satisfactory to him; but it was not evasive.
– I do not think that my old friend, Sir Joseph Cook, would have made a mistake like that attributed to one of the Ministers, and I believe that it is another Minister against whom the charge has been made. We should know which of the Ministers it is.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I consider that I have been misrepresented. The Acting Prime Minister said that I should have given him notice of my intention to speak. When I began to speak I asked the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn), who was in charge of the House, if he would be good enough to send for the Acting Prime Minister, and _ he replied, “ I will tell him.” He deemed that course sufficient.
– It is unfortunate I was not in the House when the honorable member for Capricornia spoke. If his remarks were of the serious nature suggested by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), and affected the position of a Minister, the honorable member, who has been in office, should have apprised the acting head of the Government of his intention to speak on the subject. That is the only way in which the courtesy and propriety of the situation could have been satisfied.
– The Acting Prime Minister is usually in his place. The Minister who was in charge of the House in his absence was satisfied that I should continue, upon the understanding that my remarks would be brought under .the notice of the Acting Prime Minister.
– I acquit my honorable friend of the desire to do something behind the back of the person whom he attacked; but, as I was absent, I am necessarily uninformed as to what he said. I heard’ only the concluding remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who charged me with being guilty either of negligence, or of equivocation, both of which charges I deny. The question asked this morning by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was -
Having reference to the statement made by the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence administration, that instances had been furnished to them where a Minister had incurred expenditure either without reference, or in opposition, to the Naval Board, and with, it is alleged, unsatisfactory and costly results to the Commonwealth, is the said’ Minister a member of the present Australian National War Government, what is hia name, and do the Government propose to dismiss him from office?
I answered two of these questions quite definitely. As honorable members will note, there are three questions in the last few sentences. First of all, I was asked whether the Minister referred to was a member of the National War Government. My reply was that all the members of the Navy Administration were members of the present Government. Then I was asked for the name of the Minister. To that my reply was that, having read and re-read the report, I could not find in it anything that made it clear to me as to which Minister was supposed to be involved. I shall read the paragraph in the report referring to this matter, in order to refresh the minds of honorable members, and to show where it leaves the Government in this regard.As to the third question - whether the Government proposed to dismiss the Minister from office, I answered it completely by saying that I did not propose to follow any such drastic course with regard to any of my colleagues.
Let us see now where the report puts us. In paragraph 5, page 4, these words occur : -
The control of the Navy Department by a Board of experts, with the Minister as President, is - undoubtedly sound in principle. Instances have been furnished to us where a Minister has incurred expenditure either without reference or in opposition to the Naval Board, and with unsatisfactory and costly results to the Commonwealth. This would not occur under a proper scheme of control. It is impracticable for any Department to be managed efficiently when a Minister ignores the decisions and opinions of experts in matters not involving questions of policy.
I have not put the microscope over the whole of this report, since the question was addressed to me, but I have examined that part of it which is vitaland relevant to the inquiry, and I think I am right in saying that there is nothing in it which would enable the Government to say who of the five Ministers that have been administering the Navy Department since its inauguration is alluded to in that general reference.
– The honorable gentleman could easily find out who is referred to.
– It may be for the Government or the House to say that the paragraph as it stands does not carry the matter far enough; but I invite the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to tell us whether, after scanning the report as it is now printed and laid before the House, he himself could truthfully make other than the same kind of reply that I’ gave to this question to-day, and at the same time do his duty as far as he could as a Minister.
I do not desire to hide from the House anything that it should properly know, and I shall not be a party to any such concealment. In view of the representations which have been made in my absence, and which I shall read in Hansard as soon as I have an opportunity to do so, I, with the Government, may have to consider whether I should not carry the matter further, in order that the House may be informed of the name of the Minister alluded to.
– And the nature of the transaction.
– And the nature of the transaction. That, however, is a matter which I must be left to determine. I cannot have these questions sprung upon me, and accusations of negligence or prevarication made against me-. I shall not be a party to anything of the kind, nor shall I submit to it from any member of the House. Honorable members on both sides may safely leave the matter with me, knowing that I shall not be a party to the hushing up of anything that should be properly discussed.
– I made an interjection, perhaps wrongly, as to the names of the Cabinet sub-committee which dealt with the report. What are the names ?
– I shall furnish them to the House whenever the information is desired.
– We want it now.
– Speaking from memory, the Cabinet sub-committee consisted of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen), and the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton). These honorable gentlemen were appointed by the Cabinet to consider the recommendations and to bring up their proposals to the Cabinet, because they were in a position to devote sufficient time to its consideration, and had a knowledge of the Department. Honorable memberscould have had this information before had they desired it’.
– I think the names appeared in the press.
– I believe so. There has been no attempt to keep from the public the names of the sub-committee, although it is not usual to publish the names of Cabinet sub-committees which are frequently appointed to deal with Bills and other matters. If honorable members want any such information they can always have it.
Ihave only to say, in conclusion, that if honorable members on either side of the Blouse have matters that they think worthy of inquiry, I shall be glad to know of them; but I do not desire that, while Iam temporarily absent from the House, statements should be made that might seriously reflect either upon the status of an individual Minister or the general prestige of the Government. I prefer to be present when such statements are made, so that I . may deal with them immediately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181025_reps_7_86/>.